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Explaining asymmetries in number marking: Singulatives, pluratives, and usage frequency

Martin Haspelmath and Andres Karjus
From the journal Linguistics

Abstract

This paper claims that crosslinguistic tendencies of number marking asymmetries can be explained with reference to usage frequency: The kinds of nouns which, across languages, tend to show singulative coding (with special marking of the uniplex member of a pair), rather than the more usual plurative coding (with special marking of the multiplex member), are also the kinds of nouns which tend to occur more frequently in multiplex use. We provide crosslinguistic coding evidence from a range of languages from different families and areas, and crosslinguistic corpus evidence from five languages, using large written corpora. Thus, the crosslinguistic pattern of singulative vs. plurative coding is a special instance of the tendency to devote more marking to rarer forms, and can be explained by the grammatical form-frequency correspondence principle.

Appendix: Frequencies of the 18 + 18 nouns in each of the five languages

(Estonian, Norwegian, Latvian, Russian, English; pmw=per million words)

langtypeconceptsg formpl formsg countpl counttotal (sg+pl) pmwasymmetry

index
ESTbodypartsLEGjalgjalad4528856160.340.471
ESTbodypartsLUNGkopskopsud1794352.830.589
ESTbodypartsEARkõrvkõrvad719160910.730.553
ESTpairitemsSHOEkingkingad1052179313.120.413
ESTpairitemsGLOVEkinnaskindad1357824.230.827
ESTpairitemsSKIsuusksuusad508221212.540.770
ESTflockanimalsPIGEONtuvituvid732311.400.684
ESTflockanimalsBEEmesilanemesilased2184823.230.548
ESTflockanimalsSHEEPlammaslambad7409437.760.215
ESTethnicSPEAKERSOFeestlaneeestlased12 26320 607151.530.405
ESTethnicAMERICANameeriklaneameeriklased4426662950.960.332
ESTethnicEUROPEANeurooplaneeurooplased58314879.540.608
ESTchildrenCHILDlapslapsed26 56640 903311.030.351
ESTchildrenBOYpoisspoisid17 53012 967140.59−0.260
ESTchildrenGIRLtüdruktüdrukud13 8008173101.29−0.408
ESTfruitsSTRAWBERRYmaasikasmaasikad2986044.160.507
ESTfruitsAPPLEõunõunad8488297.730.000
ESTfruitsPOTATOkartulkartulid151796411.44−0.365
EST.random.Rerakonderakonnad5703484748.63−0.150
EST.random.Rmarkmargid11774847.66−0.589
EST.random.Rteadmineteadmised3997309732.70−0.225
EST.random.Rteaterteatrid823676441.49−0.907
EST.random.Rtoimetoimed176058.14−0.997
EST.random.Rlootuslootused6300278941.90−0.557
EST.random.Rnägunäod7918178244.72−0.775
EST.random.Rklubiklubid10 107249358.09−0.753
EST.random.Rjärvjärved17193519.54−0.796
EST.random.Rvendvennad8360489661.11−0.414
EST.random.Rpõhjuspõhjused17 6514400101.65−0.751
EST.random.Rväravväravad3403324530.65−0.046
EST.random.Rtöötajatöötajad756314 444101.450.476
EST.random.Rkoolkoolid11 913466076.40−0.609
EST.random.Rjumaljumalad10 10750948.94−0.950
EST.random.Rtreenertreenerid21 8342915114.09−0.866
EST.random.Rsüsteemsüsteemid11 83389158.66−0.925
EST.random.Rideeideed14 847278981.30−0.812
NORbodypartsLEGfotføtter10315322.650.327
NORbodypartsLUNGlungelunger14313.980.548
NORbodypartsEARøreører1311010.880.882
NORpairitemsSHOEskosko540NA0.875
NORpairitemsGLOVEhanskehansker20475.930.574
NORpairitemsSKIskiski045NA1.000
NORflockanimalsPIGEONdueduer25365.400.000
NORflockanimalsBEEbiebier1252.300.960
NORflockanimalsSHEEPsausauer25615035.93−0.414
NORethnicSPEAKERSOFnordmannnordmenn2021208124.780.833
NORethnicAMERICANamerikaneramerikanere537911.680.329
NORethnicEUROPEANeuropeereuropeere11444.870.750
NORchildrenCHILDbarnbarn545NA0.889
NORchildrenBOYguttgutter763649124.96−0.149
NORchildrenGIRLjentejenter748859142.210.129
NORfruitsSTRAWBERRYjordbærjordbær050NA1.000
NORfruitsAPPLEepleepler4112014.250.658
NORfruitsPOTATOpotetpoteter2535133.270.929
NOR.random.Rangriperangripere25305.730.000
NOR.random.Rbasebaser1182715.10−0.771
NOR.random.Rbelastningbelastninger1423918.85−0.725
NOR.random.Rgarantigarantier1888628.54−0.543
NOR.random.Rstatssekretærstatssekretærer2561728.44−0.934
NOR.random.Rstykkestykker42312356.88−0.709
NOR.random.Rvikviker1992.92−0.526
NOR.random.Rvitnevitner26331960.630.176
NOR.random.Rlunsjlunsjer7728.23−0.974
NOR.random.Rbankerbankere7728.23−0.974
NOR.random.Rartikkelartikler23520245.520.000
NOR.random.Rdemonstrasjondemonstrasjoner988218.750.000
NOR.random.Rofferofre21728352.080.233
NOR.random.Rvirkelighetvirkeligheter451847.81−0.982
NOR.random.Rtegningtegninger24526453.020.000
NOR.random.Rstorstuestorstuer7348.02−0.945
NOR.random.Rsøknadsøknader23916141.67−0.326
NOR.random.Rromanromaner37613252.92−0.649
RUSbodypartsLEGноганоги516346983.320.851
RUSbodypartsLUNGлёгкоелёгкие33971121.950.523
RUSbodypartsEARухоуши52783328.440.367
RUSpairitemsSHOEтуфлятуфли63236.880.981
RUSpairitemsGLOVEрукавицарукавицы11571.420.807
RUSpairitemsSKIлыжалыжи62976.340.980
RUSflockanimalsPIGEONголубьголуби901094.160.000
RUSflockanimalsBEEпчелапчелы511113.390.541
RUSflockanimalsSHEEPовцаовцы642015.540.682
RUSethnicSPEAKERSOFрусскийрусские175043.280.660
RUSethnicAMERICANангличанинамериканцы320104628.560.694
RUSethnicEUROPEANевропеецевропейцы773248.380.762
RUSchildrenCHILDдитядети3986698148.370.941
RUSchildrenBOYмальчикмальчики162348644.10−0.701
RUSchildrenGIRLдевочкадевочки1414115853.78−0.181
RUSfruitsSTRAWBERRYземляниказемляники53882.950.398
RUSfruitsAPPLEяблокояблоки22437312.480.399
RUSfruitsPOTATOкартофелинакартофель61994.290.970
RUS.random.Rвидимостьвидимости29974021.720.596
RUS.random.Rворворы2652059.83−0.226
RUS.random.Rскатертьскатерти93803.620.000
RUS.random.Rказармаказармы291623.990.821
RUS.random.Rнаборнаборы187915442.51−0.918
RUS.random.Rпаузапаузы45931916.27−0.305
RUS.random.Rпаспортпаспорта82650027.73−0.395
RUS.random.Rреброрёбра741935.580.617
RUS.random.Rобществообщества45619189287.500.504
RUS.random.Rдостоинстводостоинства810122142.470.337
RUS.random.Rдействиедействия38608235252.900.531
RUS.random.Rпериодпериоды9462879216.22−0.907
RUS.random.Rследследы80695936.900.160
RUS.random.Rсомнениесомнения738184453.990.600
RUS.random.Rпониманиепонимания1858159772.24−0.140
RUS.random.Rкнязькнязья102414624.46−0.857
RUS.random.Rклиентклиенты65447023.50−0.281
RUS.random.Rдверцадверцы52862.890.395
LATbodypartsEARaussausis189726.080.814
LATbodypartsLUNGplaušaplaušas0286.351.000
LATbodypartsLEGkājakājas6026373.260.772
LATpairitemsSKIslēpeslēpes010.230.000
LATpairitemsGLOVEcimdscimdi4205.440.800
LATpairitemsSHOEkurpekurpe84912.930.837
LATflockanimalsBEEbitebites973.630.000
LATflockanimalsSHEEPaitaaitas4113.400.000
LATflockanimalsPIGEONbalodisbaloži732422.00−0.671
LATethnicAMERICANamerikānisamerikāņi327023.130.543
LATethnicEUROPEANeiropietiseiropieši2153.860.867
LATethnicSPEAKERSOFlatvietislatvieši8023771.900.662
LATchildrenGIRLmeitenemeitenes655202194.38−0.692
LATchildrenBOYzēnszēni18613272.13−0.290
LATchildrenCHILDbērnsbērni10561446567.480.270
LATfruitsSTRAWBERRYzemenezemenes44811.790.917
LATfruitsAPPLEābolsāboli3310030.170.670
LATfruitsPOTATOkartupeliskartupeļi414233.110.972
LAT.random.Rizstādeizstāde203446.95−0.980
LAT.random.Rprasībaprasība145536154.460.729
LAT.random.Rvietavieta95216219.55−0.983
LAT.random.Rzemezeme359181.65−0.997
LAT.random.Rgodsgods89120.41−0.989
LAT.random.Rkrustskrusts47712.25−0.851
LAT.random.Rkaimiņškaimiņš4412137.420.636
LAT.random.Rstāstsstāsts327127102.97−0.612
LAT.random.Rmirklismirklis552217.46−0.600
LAT.random.Rlīnijalīnija95121.77−0.989
LAT.random.Rziedsziedi5110234.700.500
LAT.random.Rkoriskori811521.77−0.815
LAT.random.Rdievsdievi57441139.49−0.929
LAT.random.Rpacientspacienti15420982.330.263
LAT.random.Rspeciālistsspeciālisti190465148.560.591
LAT.random.Rpriekšmetspriekšmeti12110150.350.000
LAT.random.Rpakalpojumspakalpojumi9119063.730.521
LAT.random.Rpieprasījumspieprasījumi2121150.58−0.948
ENGbodypartsLEGleglegs32574174102.270.220
ENGbodypartsLUNGlunglungs18956810.420.667
ENGbodypartsEARearears1499190546.850.213
ENGpairitemsSHOEshoeshoes514240740.200.786
ENGpairitemsGLOVEglovegloves21266012.000.679
ENGpairitemsSKIskiskis521733.100.699
ENGflockanimalsPIGEONpigeonpigeons1652776.080.404
ENGflockanimalsBEEbeebees2514689.890.464
ENGflockanimalsSHEEPsheepsheep436NA0.889
ENGethnicSPEAKERSOFbritbrits591572.970.624
ENGethnicAMERICANamericanamericans309188730.220.836
ENGethnicEUROPEANeuropeaneuropeans2124919.670.568
ENGchildrenCHILDchildchildren11 47528 253546.740.594
ENGchildrenBOYboyboys78664845174.93−0.384
ENGchildrenGIRLgirlgirls94675122200.78−0.459
ENGfruitsSTRAWBERRYstrawberrystrawberries1061793.920.408
ENGfruitsAPPLEappleapples1822NA0.000
ENGfruitsPOTATOpotatopotatoes29499517.740.705
ENG.random.Rclearingclearings176302.83−0.830
ENG.random.Rclaimclaims3448307089.70−0.110
ENG.random.Rheadlineheadlines27459211.920.537
ENG.random.Rrepresentationrepresentations2338101046.08−0.568
ENG.random.Rbackgroundbackgrounds316446549.94−0.853
ENG.random.Rrecorderrecorders55219310.25−0.650
ENG.random.Rtablettablets22267012.280.669
ENG.random.Rprimaryprimaries2161224.65−0.435
ENG.random.Rbatchbatches3721056.56−0.718
ENG.random.Rnounnouns2301284.93−0.443
ENG.random.Rpartnerpartners2947269877.69−0.084
ENG.random.Rgovernorgovernors1495120337.13−0.195
ENG.random.Rmistakemistakes2490105648.80−0.576
ENG.random.Ropeningopenings181426028.54−0.857
ENG.random.Rreconstructionreconstructions629679.58−0.893
ENG.random.Rapprovalapprovals27609539.29−0.966
ENG.random.Rbailbails432116.10−0.975
ENG.random.Rslopeslopes74360418.54−0.187

Corpora

BNC

= The British National Corpus (of English), version 3 (BNC XML Edition). 2007. Distributed by Oxford University Computing Services on behalf of the BNC Consortium. URL: http://www.natcorp.ox.ac.uk/

EKK

= Eesti keele koondkorpus [Estonian Reference Corpus]. The morphologically tagged version (cf. Kirt 2013) was used in this study. The most current version is available at http://www.cl.ut.ee/korpused.

MLVTK

= Mūsdienu latviešu valodas tekstu korpuss [Modern Latvian Text Corpus]. Available at http://www.korpuss.lv/(accessed 01.10.2014)

OK

= Oslo-korpuset av taggede norske tekster (bokmålsdelen) [The Oslo Corpus of Tagged Norwegian Texts (the bokmål-part)]. Available at http://www.tekstlab.uio.no/norsk/bokmaal/

RNC

= National Corpus of the Russian Language (НКРЯ=Национальный корпус русского языка) Available at http://ruscorpora.ru/(accessed 23.11.2014).

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Published Online: 2017-10-17
Published in Print: 2017-11-27

© 2017 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

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