Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Reduplicative plurals in Mubi

Yesterday we saw that the dominant plural type for CVC / CVVCV stems, CVVDvD, can be given a unified analysis. How does this generalize to other stem types?

Plurals with final reduplication, dominant for CVC / CVVCV stems, are much less common for other stem shapes. For CV(C)CV stems, however, we do find a reasonable number of reduplicative plurals, this time in -o(o)C:

  • sùwá "calabash" > sùwòw
  • tògò "skin" > tùgók
  • rìwwí "song" > rèwòw
  • màbò "old" > mùbóop
  • cóɓɓì "lance" > cúɓóop
  • lánjá "friend" > lúnjóoc

(There is also one reduplicative plural in -eC - kúrɗyí "buttock" > kòrɗyèc - which seems difficult to reduce to the same pattern. It suggests that height harmony may apply to short vowels too, in which case we might blame sùwòw above on the influence of the semivowel.)

In Mubi, final VVC seems to be rare in simplex words. In monosyllables, it occurs only in loans, while elsewhere, it mainly shows up in imperfectives (cf. Jungraithmayr 2013:31). We may very tentatively suppose that in some common plurals it has been reduced to VC. Reduction of vowel length in final VVC also allows us to revise our analysis from yesterday to take into account bàŋ "mouth" > bòŋúŋ; a surface CVC stem may be underlying *CVC or *CVVC, and the vowel length in the plural reflects that rather than changing the stem.

Apart from the issue of vowel length, the rules outlined so far would yield the following (or, if we assumed that height harmony applies to short vowels too, the forms in brackets):

  • sùwòw (*sòwòw)
  • *tògók
  • *rìwwòw (*rèwwòw)
  • *màbóop (*mòbóop)
  • *cóɓɓóop
  • *lánjóoc (*lónjóoc)

A rule spreading roundness along the lines of a,o > u / _Coo seems feasible, judging by the lexicon, and fixes some of the problems above (not sure what's going on with "song"):

  • sùwòw
  • *tògók
  • *rìwwòw
  • mùbóop
  • *cùɓɓóop
  • lúnjóoc

But that can't be the whole story here. If bòdòl (see below) is a possible word, then so is *tògók; and there's no general ban on geminates in these positions, cp. wíccáak "to jump about while dancing (impf.)". Instead, there seems to be a templatic element here, whereby the vowel before the plural o/oo has been generalized to be u irrespective of the input, and the consonant before it must not be geminate. Insofar as these involve fixed vowels inside the stem, that strengthens the case for a comparable analysis of the previous data, which is feasible for CooDuD plurals. Integrating the -oC plurals seen above, we can thus reformulate the reduplicative plural as follows:

sg. BV(C/D)DV => pl. Bu(C)DooD (with sporadic reduction to -oD)
sg. BVVD(v) [-front] => pl. BooDuD
sg. BVVD(v) [+front] => pl. BVVDaD

Note that the internal vowel lengths and positions of the singular are preserved in the plural in all three of these; only stem-final vowels are affected.

For other stem shapes, reduplicative plurals seem to be sporadic, mostly involving words whose last consonant is a liquid. I can only find 3 clear instances of -uC in Jungraithmayr's lexicon for them, and 1 of -aC:

  • bòdòl "road" > bùdòolúl
  • kòròojó "small calabash" > kòròojúc
  • ɗíngírí "branch" > ɗìngéerúr
  • gúrlí "testicle" > gòrlàl
Once again, the internal vowel positions of the singular are preserved in the plural, if not necessarily the lengths. However, the predictions of our previous hypothesis are thus slightly off in two cases; we would have expected:
  • *bòdòolúl
  • kòròojúc
  • *ɗìngéerár (or, if we force a -uD plural despite the front vowels, *ɗìngúurúr)
  • gòrlàl

For ɗìngéerúr, no explanation for the -uC comes to mind; it is tempting to hope that this one is a typo. For bùdòolúl, however, a templatic explanation for the irregularity is at hand: CuCooCuC is, as we will hopefully see in a later post, the dominant plural template in Mubi for four-consonant nouns, which behave rather differently from what we've seen so far.

Now we've covered final reduplication plurals (glossing over a couple of irregulars, notably gìn "face" > gèenín / gànàn). This leads on naturally into another set of plurals, likewise featuring long vowels but without reduplication; if everything goes well, we can look at those next time.

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