Plural strategies in Yoruba


  • Ọládiípọ̀ Ajiboye


Yoruba, plural marking


This paper accounts for the strategies that Yorùbá adopts to mark plural. One way in which plural is marked syntactically is by certain plural words. The plural word can either interpret the noun as plural directly as in the case of àwọn and quantifying words such as púpọ̀ ‘many’ and méjì ‘two’; or it can be realized on a primitive adjective (in the form of COPY) or on a demonstrative (in the form of wọ̀n-). Such elements in turn make available the plural interpretation of the noun they modify. The paper proposes that these plural words possess a covert or an overt [PLURAL] feature, which percolates onto the NP. This analysis of plural marking predicts that there are two ways by which languages may (overtly) mark their nouns for plural cross-linguistically. Languages like Yorùbá, which do not show agreement, mark plural syntactically and make use of a plural feature percolation mechanism, while languages like English, which show agreement, mark plural morphologically and use a plural feature-matching mechanism. It further demonstrates that in Yorùbá, an NP can be freely interpreted as singular or plural in specific discourse context and proposes a general number analysis to account for this type of case. As to the syntax of these plural words, It is proposed that like other non-morphological plural marking languages (e.g., Halkomelem (British Columbia, Canada) as in Wiltschko 2008), Yorùbá plural words are adjuncts that are adjoined to the host head (noun or modifier/demonstrative).