This paper looks at the cross-linguistically rare phenomenon of number suppletion in adjectives. I consider how such suppletion arises by looking at six known examples with a special focus on the Brittonic languages (Breton, Cornish and Welsh), which are discussed as an extended case study. Three generalisations are suggested on the basis of the typological study. First, adjectives denoting size (“small” and “big”) are at the centre of this phenomenon. Second, where the etymology of the adjectives is known, the plural member of the suppletive pair for “small” develops from a lexeme denoting something having been divided into or consisting of small parts. These lexemes can also be used with some singular nouns and in such cases they denote the component structure of the referent. Finally, adjectives with number suppletion tend to mark plural number consistently in environments in which plural marking is otherwise optional or rare.
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Cited by 4 other publications
Kim, Ronald I.
2019. Suppletive Stem Distribution: A Diachronic Perspective. Transactions of the Philological Society 117:3 ► pp. 455 ff.
2019. Grammatical Number in Welsh: Diachrony and Typology. Transactions of the Philological Society 117:S1 ► pp. 1 ff.
Plank, Frans & Nigel Vincent
2019. Suppletion: Questions for History and Theory. Transactions of the Philological Society 117:3 ► pp. 319 ff.
[no author supplied]
2022. Reviews. Journal of Celtic Linguistics 23:1 ► pp. 137 ff.
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