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Re: Number

From:J Matthew Pearson <pearson@...>
Date:Monday, August 6, 2001, 18:08
Aidan Grey wrote:

> Ran teithan Jeff: > > I hope you're kidding -- that is not at all how I > > understand "distributive" > > and "collective". To me, "distributive" is like > > mathematical distributive > > and "collective" means that the set of entities is > > treated like an entity > > itself. > > Nope, he's not kidding. And it gets weirder still, > like in my example above. Remember that every > occupation will have its unique uses of certain terms. > A psychologist will have a very different > understanding of distributive than a mathematician!
Well, no, actually the mathematical senses of the term "collective" and "distributive" *are* used in linguistics--perhaps not with reference to number, but certainly with reference to quantification over individuals and events. Consider a sentence like "Everybody went to the village". This is ambiguous: It could mean that everybody went to the village together (a single event). That's the collective construal. Or it could mean that different groups of one or more people went to the village at different times (multiple events). In the latter case, we say that the events of going to the village are distributed among the individuals in the set denoted by "everybody". I wouldn't be surprised if some language somewhere distinguished the collective and distributive interpretations grammatically--either by using different quantifiers (my conlang Tokana does this), or perhaps by using different plural markers. Maybe some or all of the languages which Marcus was referring to actually work like this. Then there are languages which allow you to pluralise the verb itself to indicate multiple events; in such languages, "Everybody went to the village" could be disambiguated by just looking at the number marking on the verb. Matt.


Sylvia Sotomayor <kelen@...>