University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics


An associative plural is a nominal expression that refers to a group by naming its most salient member (1). The

construction is used to introduce a new group into discourse, a group that is understood to be inherently (or contextually) associated with its named protagonist.

(1) Pa-hulle (Afrikaans, den Besten 1996:16)


‘Dad and Mum' or 'Dad and his folks’

In this paper, I argue for an analysis of associative plurals as phrasal expressions where the protagonist and the group are two separate syntactic entities. Namely, I suggest that associatives are headed by a non-descriptive nominal with group semantics. The reference of this group is determined through its association with the protagonist. The protagonist is a referential modifier which starts out in a modifier projection and moves to the specifier of DP. I begin by showing that associative protagonists share a number of syntactic and morphological properties with other types of referential modifiers such as demonstratives, personal pronouns and certain types of possessives. I go on to demonstrate that languages employ different strategies in spelling out the functional features of the non-descriptive group nominal, and that the apparent surface diversity of associative marking can be derived from the same syntactic structure. Finally, I suggest that my analysis of associatives can be extended to personal pronouns in their associative, anaphoric, and non-canonical interpretations.



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