In quite a few languages, the nominal plural marker is formally identical to the – mostly independent – 3rd person plural pronoun, as for instance in Cameroon Pidgin English:
This chapter is closely related to Chapter 22 on the occurrence of nominal plural markers and to Chapter 23 on the expression of nominal plural meaning.
In this feature, four values are distinguished:
|No nominal plural word||29|
Many APiCS languages do not posses a nominal plural word (value 1). The plural marking in these languages is discussed in Chapter 23. The most widespread strategies are the use of a plural suffix (as -s/-is in Cape Verdean of São Vicente), reduplication of the stem (as in Singapore Bazaar Malay), or stem change (as in Nigerian Pidgin).
Identity (value 2) means that there is only one word that is used both as a 3rd person plural pronoun and as a nominal plural marker, as shown by (1). In example (1b), as well as in the following examples, the plural marker follows the noun:
But the plural marker may also precede the noun:
Differentiation (value 3) means that there are two different words for the two functions, as in
Overlap (value 4) means that there are two words and that one functions only as a pronoun and the other as a pronoun as well as a nominal plural marker, or the other way around. In the following examples (8a-c), taken from Bislama, olgeta functions as a personal pronoun as well as a nominal plural marker, but ol is only a nominal plural marker:
38% of the APiCS languages do not possess a nominal plural word; 29% differentiate between the 3rd person pronoun and the plural marker; 21% use the 3rd person plural pronoun for nominal plural marking, and 12% show overlap.
Out of the 47 languages with a nominal plural marker (values 2-4), 22 differentiate between the two functions, 16 show identity, and 9 overlap. In other words, 52% of the languages to which the feature applies possess the feature, either exclusively or together with another marker.
A special case is found in Trinidad English Creole and Vincentian Creole. In these two languages, the plural marker may be a combination of the conjunction ‘and’ and the pronoun of the 3rd person plural. In Trinidad English Creole, this is the only possibility (value 3, differentiation):
In Vincentian Creole, the conjunction ‘and’ is optional (value 4, overlap):
The identity between the 3rd person plural pronoun and the nominal plural marker, be it as value 2 (identity) or 4 (overlap), is almost exclusively an Atlantic feature, occurring on both sides of the ocean (7 languages in West Africa, fifteen in the Caribbean). It is not restricted to a specific primary lexifier since it occurs, for example, in Santome (Portuguese-based), Krio (English-based), Haitian (French-based), or Negerhollands (Dutch-based).
According to some creolists, the third person plural pronoun used as a nominal plural marker in a given language is not a mere plural marker but a marker of (plural) definiteness or a plural article. We would like to show that, at least in Principense, this marker (realized as ine) is not a marker of definiteness or a plural article but a plural marker that is only used in definite contexts.
Like many creole languages, Principense does not overtly mark generic or indefinite plural noun phrases, and it does not mark plural noun phrases which are modified by a plural quantifier unless these are syntactically marked for definiteness, e.g. with a demonstrative determiner or a relative clause:
In such cases, it is not ine which triggers a definite reading of the noun phrase but the occurrence of the (definite) demonstrative sê which triggers the use of ine. This means that for language internal reasons many indefinite contexts exclude the use of a nominal plural marker.
If the noun is inanimate, it may only be modified by ine if the noun phrase is overtly definite, e.g. because of the co-occurrence of the demonstrative sê:
Vocative noun phrases are intrinsically definite because of the extralinguistic context in which they are used. In sentences like (13) the plural marker does not add definiteness to the noun phrase – it only adds plurality.
The rules of Principense may of course not be applied to other languages, and each language must be examined for itself separately. The important fact here is that in many creole languages, the 3rd person plural pronoun can be used to express nominal plurality in one way or another.