GEN.SG = NOM.PL: A mystery solved?

Title: GEN.SG = NOM.PL: A mystery solved?
Variant title:
  • GEN.SG = NOM.PL: Záhada vyřešena?
Author: Caha, Pavel
Source document: Linguistica Brunensia. 2016, vol. 64, iss. 1, pp. 25-40
  • ISSN
    1803-7410 (print)
    2336-4440 (online)
Type: Article
License: Not specified license

Notice: These citations are automatically created and might not follow citation rules properly.

This paper proposes an explanation for the identity of form between GEN.SG and NOM.PL. The paper first shows that the homonymy is attested in Czech as well as a number of other languages. Because of the nature of the categories involved, the homonymy is interesting for theories of syncretism. Specifically, the two terms of syncretism do not form a natural class on any dimension (SG vs. PL and NOM vs. GEN). The main question that arises in this context is whether syncretism can target any two arbitrary cases, or whether there is some deeper explanation as to why exactly these two cases are expressed the same. Working in the framework of Nanosyntax, I explain the syncretism by proposing that the formation of plural involves a silent noun (GROUP), which requires a genitive case on its complement. I argue that the complement of the noun GROUP agrees with the head and represents thus a special case of an agreeing genitive construction. The plural morpheme itself then corresponds to a portmanteau spell out of the genitive plus the agreement. Additional evidence for bi-nominal plurals is provided from unrelated phenomena in unrelated languages, such as plural marking in the Cushitic language Bayso and in Mauritian Creole, where, as I argue, the plural marker itself is an overt incarnation of the noun that is silent in Czech.
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