Nominal number in Mano (South Mande)

2014. №5, 97-121

Marija L. Xačatur’jan
Institute of Linguistics, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, 125009,
Russia; INALCO – LLACAN, CNRS, Paris, France;


This paper deals with the morphology, syntax, and semantics of nominal number in Mano, a South Mande language. In this isolating language lacking stable number paradigms plurality is expressed by several eventually coexisting means, lexical (numerals and two number words) and morphological (plural forms of certain nouns and adjectives). Neither of these is obligatory. Moreover, the plurality itself is expressed optionally, as the semantic opposition between noun phrases marked and unmarked for plurality is not plural vs. singular, but rather plural vs. general. There seems to be a quite unusual agreement in number: a plural target is chosen only if the controller is plural, while the converse is not true. Another unusual feature concerns semantics: number word nì is polysemic, its semantics includes associative and distributive. I will argue that number in Mano is a quasigrammeme in terms of [Mel’čuk 1993]: the expression of plurality is regular, but not obligatory, while agreement in number is optional and is realized according to Animacy and Noun phrase accessibility hierarchies.