Indonesian Language Plural Case

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  • Topic: Grammatical number, Measure word, Collective noun
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Plural semantics, reduplication, and numeral modification in Indonesian Mary Dalrymple and Suriel Mofu Centre for Linguistics and Philology University of Oxford Patterns of plural marking and numeral modification in Indonesian provide an interesting testbed for theories of the semantics of numeral classifiers and plurality. Crosslinguistically, the presence of numeral classifiers in a language is strongly connected with the absence or optionality of plural marking; this generalisation is the basis of Chierchia’s (1998a, 1998b) Nominal Mapping Parameter, and also accords with established typological generalisations (Greenberg 1972, Aikhenvald 2000, Corbett 2000). In Indonesian, both plural marking as reduplication and classifiers in numeral modification constructions are optional, and bare (non-reduplicated) Indonesian nouns are best analysed as exhibiting general number (Greenberg 1972, Corbett 2000, Carson 2000), rather than corresponding to the unmarked member of a singular-plural opposition. Unlike many languages with general number, Indonesian exhibits no masscount distinction: notionally “mass” and notionally “count” nouns do not diÿer in their grammatical behaviour, and participate equally in reduplication and numeral modification constructions. We provide an analysis of the semantics of reduplication, classifiers, and numeral modification in Indonesian which rests on the lack of a mass/count distinction and explains the strong dispreference for numeral modification of reduplicated nouns. 1 Introduction

Indonesian has what has been analysed as plural marking, realised as reduplication: (1) Pulau-pulau Bali, Lombok dan Sumbawa terletak di sebelah timur island-REDUP and TER.lie at side east pulau Jawa. island Java. ‘The islands of Bali, Lombok, and Sumbawa are located east of Java.’ (Chung 2000, citing Sneddon 1996) The noun pulau ‘island’ is reduplicated in (1), and refers to more than one island. Unlike plural morphology in English, reduplication is not necessary in referring to more than one individual. Bare nouns can also refer to pluralities; nonreduplicated telur in (2) can be interpreted as plural:

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(2) Saya merebus telur. I ME.boil egg ‘I am boiling eggs.’ Indonesian also has numeral classifiers, though their use is optional. In (3), the classifier orang is glossed CL: (3) lima (orang) guru 5 CL teacher ‘five teachers’ It is often assumed that only count nouns, and not mass nouns, can appear with plural marking and in numeral modification constructions. We show that Indonesian does not have a mass/count distinction: reduplication and numeral modification, with or without classifiers, are available for notionally “mass” as well as notionally “count” nouns in Indonesian. These patterns are problematic for previous analyses of Indonesian reduplication and numeral modification (Chung 2000, Carson 2000, Sew 2007), which rely on a mass/count distinction. 2 Numeral classifiers

Indonesian has three numeral classifiers in common use: orang ‘person’ for people, ekor ‘tail’ for animals, and buah ‘fruit’ for everything else. (4) a. lima orang guru 5 CL teacher ‘five teachers’ b. lima ekor sapi 5 CL cow ‘five cows’ c. lima buah meja 5 CL table ‘five tables’ For all numerals other than se- ‘one’, which is a prefix attached to the classifier, the classifier is optional1 (Sneddon 1996, Chung 2000). Alongside (4), the phrases in (5) are also completely acceptable: (5) a. lima guru 5 teacher ‘five teachers’ (2000) provides an analysis of classifiers in Malay, which she uses as a cover term for the closely related Western Austronesian languages spoken in Indonesia (Bahasa Indonesia, or Indonesian), Malaysia (Bahasa Malaysia), Singapore, and Brunei. All of her informants are speakers of Bahasa Malaysia. She claims that classifiers are obligatory in numeral modification constructions in Malay; however, examples of numeral modification without classifiers are plentiful in Indonesian as well as other varieties of Malay, as we show below. 1 Carson

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