The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

LFRG 5/6 - Alan Bale

WHO: Alan Bale
WHAT: Singular, Plural, and Obligatory Competition
WHEN: May 6, 2:00PM-3:15PM
WHERE: 32-D831


Several theories have proposed that number marking, in particular singular and plural marking, compete with one another and that this competition influences how nouns are interpreted. Evidence in support of this proposal usually comes from languages like English where singular nouns have a strict singular interpretation. In such languages, it is hypothesized that plural nouns are literally unspecified for number but receive a strict plural interpretation through (obligatory) competition with the singular (see Krifka, 1989; Spector, 2007; and Sauerland et al., 2005).

This talk investigates whether singular and plural marking in Turkish and Western Armenian compete with one another. Unlike English, the so-called singular nouns in these languages do not have a strict singular interpretation, but rather can be used to quantify over both groups and individuals. In contrast, the plural nouns have a strict plural interpretation. As will be shown, there is evidence of competition in these languages but such competition critically relies on a comparison of syntactic complexity. Such a conclusion has cross-linguistic consequences for all types of competition, especially with respect to number marking.