Variable number marking in Vera’a
Animacy and beyond
The number interpretation of Noun Phrase structures (NPs) with different animacy values and variable overt marking of number is investigated in a corpus from the Oceanic language Vera’a. It is found that number marking is optional for all nouns and that number marking is essentially semantic, expressing collectivity and distributivity. While statistical patterns of greater likelihood of number marking comply with the animacy hierarchy, the central motivating factor for number marking is found to be likelihood of individuatedness. This study thus contributes to a functionalist account of cross-linguistically observed patterns of hierarchical number marking.
Keywords: optional plural, hierarchical number marking, animacy, Oceanic languages, collectivity, distributivity
Published online: 02 March 2020
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