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Re: Number

From:Jeff Jones <jeffsjones@...>
Date:Tuesday, August 7, 2001, 10:58
On Mon, 6 Aug 2001 11:08:11 -0700, J Matthew Pearson
<pearson@...> wrote:

>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.
Thanks, Matt -- I was getting worried. This reminds me, I've been thinking about quantification, number, and numbers lately and trying to figure out how they relate, not very successfully so far. Jeff