Romance plurals

Romance plurals

The La Spezia-Rimini Line (or more precisely Massa-Senigallia Line) demarcates some important distinctions between Romance languages north and west of it (Portuguese, Spanish, Catalan, Occitan, French, Romansh, Cisalpine) and those east and south of it (standard Italian, Sicilian, Romanian, Aromanian, Megleno-Romanian, Istro-Romanian and extinct Dalmatian). One of these distinctions is the formation of plurals: north and west of the line, the Romance plurals were usually formed from the Latin (Vulgar Latin) accusative case, while east and south of it, the plurals were usually formed from the nominative case.

Eastern Romance plurals and Western Romance plurals are based on similar principles: they are built from an unmarked (singular) stem and a plural morpheme. Throughout history, this morpheme has fundamentally preserved its formal shape: the Romance plural corresponds to the morphophonological feature /coronal/. This feature is realized both in the vocalic alternations of eastern Romance plurals, and in the consonantal [s] plurals of western Romance.

The nominative view is basically a functional one: following the loss of VulgarLatin [m] and [s] endings, singulars and plurals would have become homophonic and
nominative plurals provided an escape-hatch to formally restore the distinction in number. The accusative view is strictly phonological and argues that the loss of final [s] induced the vocalic alternations.

The vocalic changes that take place in Italian or Romanian plural formation are the result of spreading a subset of features of the Latin accusative plural marker [s] . This analysis allows for a uniform approach to all Romance languages and hence reduces the differences between the examples in (1) and (2) to surface effects: just like the Romance languages in the west, eastern Romance languages form their plural through morphological augmentation. However, this analysis leads to various inconsistencies. For example, the accusative view would mean that Latin -âs>Italian -e and Latin -ês>Italian -i. This works fine in nouns, but not in verbs, where Latin -âs and -ês both >Italian -i when unstressed and -âs>-ai and -ês>-ei when stressed. The nominative view, however, holds that -ae>-e and -ês>-i; both ae>e and ê>i are attested elsewhere in the Italian language (caelum>cielo and dê>di). Also, the accusative view would hold that Latin -ôs>Italian -i. This is inconsistent with the pronouns nôs>noi and vôs>voi. The nominative view, î>i, is consistent. Therefore, while the changes in the verb endings could be the result of coronalization due to final -s, it is not as likely that noun plurals are.

Romance languages encode plural markings on nouns and adjectives through:

# suffixation:
## Portuguese cavalo cavalos
## Spanish caballo caballos
## Catalan cavall cavalls
## Occitan chaval chavals
## Romansh chaval chavals
## Franco-Provençal chavau chavaus
## Sardinian cabaddu cabaddos
# vowel alternation:
## Italian cavallo cavalli
## Romanian cal cai
# other forms of alternation:
## French cheval chevaux (the "x" is silent)

Rule of plural formation

Rule of plural formation (Italian, Romanian):

NPl. = Nstem + ‘‘residual s’’

:a Italian amico amici ‘friend(s)’: [IPA|amiko] [IPA|amiʧi] :b Romanian bunic bunici ‘grandfather(s)’: [IPA|bunik] [IPA|buniʧʲ]

Palatalization effects like above and other consonantal changes induced by surrounding vowels have led to the insight that vowels and consonants share the same set of (primary) place (or articulator) features.

:a In eastern Romance, final [s] survived in some instances through spreading of its coronal feature

:b In Italian and Romanian plurals are formed through morphological augmentation


*D'hulst, Yves, "Romance plurals", Leiden University, 2005.

ee also

*Classification of Romance languages
*Diachronics of plural inflection in the Padanian language
*La Spezia-Rimini Line

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