An associative plural construction consists of a noun X and an associative plural marker and means ‘X and associates’. It contrasts with an ordinary additive plural construction, which consists of a noun Y and an additive plural marker and means ‘several instances of Y’. The contrast is illustrated in (1) from Kriol, where -mob is an associative plural marker and ole is an ordinary additive plural marker.
Associative plurals are not well-known from European languages, but they occur very widely in the world’s languages, as shown in Daniel & Moravcsik’s (2005) WALS chapter, on which this chapter is based. For more on associative plurals, see Corbett (2000: 101-111), Moravcsik (2003).
In general, the focal referent (e.g. ‘Helen’ in (1a)) in an associative plural is a person name or a kinship term, and the associates refer to family members or friends of the person.
We distinguish four values. The majority of APiCS languages have associative plurals, and we distinguish three subtypes.
|Associative plural marker identical to additive plural marker||29||0||29|
|Special associative plural marker identical to 3rd plural pronoun||8||0||8|
|Other special associative plural marker||9||0||9|
|No associative plural marker||25||0||25|
In the majority of APiCS languages with associative plurals, the same marker is used for additive and associative plurals (value 1). In this regard, APiCS languages are no different from the world’s languages (Daniel & Moravcsik 2005). These plural markers thus simply have a somewhat broader meaning than the plural markers in languages lacking associative plurals.
(Note that in Tok Pisin, the order of the marker is different in the associative use. This is disregarded here.)
This type is particularly common among Atlantic and Indian Ocean languages in APiCS, which is very likely related to the fact that the type is very widespread also in the languages of West Africa and in Bantu languages.
Quite a few of the plural markers in this group are identical to the 3rd person plural pronoun (see examples 2-5 above), especially among the Atlantic English-based languages. This identity of (ordinary and associative) nominal plural marker and 3rd person plural pronoun will be discussed in the next chapter (Chapter 25).
In a number of languages, there is a special associative plural marker different from the additive plural marker, but is identical to the 3rd person plural pronoun (value 2), as seen in (8)-(10).
There are also a few languages with a special associative plural marker which is different from both the ordinary plural marker and the 3rd person plural pronoun (value 3). We already saw an example of this in (1) above. More examples are given in (11)-(13).
Associative plurals are very similar to similative plurals (as also noted by Daniel & Moravcsik 2005), i.e. constructions that refer to a plurality of entities which are similar to (rather than associated with) the focal referent. Thus, in Diu Indo-Portuguese, the construction in (14a) is a similative plural construction. Interestingly, the plural marker tud follows the noun here, whereas it precedes it when it has additive meaning (14b), much as in Tok Pisin.
Even though this is not strictly speaking an associative plural construction, we decided to count it as such for this chapter and subsumed Diu Indo-Portuguese under value 1. Likewise, the Korlai construction with duplifixation, exemplified by korp bi-p ‘body and so forth’ (where the beginning of the second reduplicant is replaced by bi-, see Chapter 26), has been considered an associative plural here, though this is an unconventional classification. Another language that seems to have similative plurals rather than associative plurals is the mixed language Gurindji Kriol. We already saw example (12), which is unlike the other examples in that the focal noun is an ordinary common noun rather than a proper name or a kinship term with unique reference. Maybe this should be translated as ‘frogs and similar animals’. Gurindji Kriol has another marker, specialized for inanimate referents, which is translated as a kind of similative plural:
The examples considered in this last section show that the diversity in associative plural marking is potentially quite rich, but most APiCS languages are simpler and have just a single separate marker that combines only with names or kinship terms, as in (1)-(10).