Case and number suppletion in pronouns

Abstract

Suppletion for case and number in pronominal paradigms shows robust patterns across a large, cross-linguistic survey. These patterns are largely, but not entirely, parallel to patterns described in Bobaljik (2012) for suppletion for adjectival degree. Like adjectival degree suppletion along the dimension positive < comparative < superlative, if some element undergoes suppletion for a category X, that element will also undergo suppletion for any category more marked than X on independently established markedness hierarchies for case and number. We argue that the structural account of adjectival suppletive patterns in Bobaljik (2012) extends to pronominal suppletion, on the assumption that case (Caha 2009) and number (Harbour 2011) hierarchies are structurally encoded. In the course of the investigation, we provide evidence against the common view that suppletion obeys a condition of structural (Bobaljik 2012) and/or linear (Embick 2010) adjacency (cf. Merchant 2015; Moskal and Smith 2016), and argue that the full range of facts requires instead a domain-based approach to locality (cf. Moskal 2015b). In the realm of number, suppletion of pronouns behaves as expected, but a handful of examples for suppletion in nouns show a pattern that is initially unexpected, but which is, however, consistent with the overall view if the Number head is also internally structurally complex. Moreover, variation in suppletive patterns for number converges with independent evidence for variation in the internal complexity and markedness of number across languages.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    See, for instance, Mel’čuk (1994), Corbett (2005, 2007) for discussions over what should constitute suppletive patterns. Our focus in this paper will be suppletion of pronouns—we take no stand on whether suppletion (root allomorphy) and affixal alternations should be understood in the same terms.

  2. 2.

    There is one possible counter-example among adjectives of quality from Basque, and a handful of possibly challenging examples from quantifiers: ‘many/much–more–most.’ See Bobaljik (2012) for discussion and alternative accounts consistent with the generalisations presented in the main text. In this study we only take into account morphological, or synthetic, constructions and make no predictions for periphrastic constructions.

  3. 3.

    Bobaljik (2012:Chapter 7) proposes that the containment Hypothesis is itself a consequence of a deeper condition on the content of functional nodes. Specifically, it is proposed that UG cannot combine the comparative operator more and the universal quantifier inherent in the superlative thanallothers into a single functional node (cf. Kayne’s 2005:212, Principle of Decompositionality).

  4. 4.

    Note that of course not all constructions contain a superlative projection; as such, a comparative is represented as [[ adjective ] comparative ].

  5. 5.

    Note that for the exponents in the VI-rules here, and below, we abstract away from phonological details, and represent them orthographically.

  6. 6.

    Note that there is no competition or blocking among whole words; the form *gooder is never derived. See Embick and Marantz (2008) for discussion and comparison with alternatives.

  7. 7.

    Additional minor rules are needed to ensure that the superlative surfaces as best and not *betterest—see Bobaljik (2012) for discussion. What is relevant for the illustrative point here is that the comparative and superlative share a common root. Since ABC patterns are describable (see immediately below), it is formally possible to mimic a surface ABA pattern, via accidental homophony of A and C. Bobaljik proposes (Bobaljik 2012:35) to exclude this via a general learning bias against root homophony.

  8. 8.

    This is somewhat of a simplification especially as regards locality; see Bobaljik (2012) and Moskal and Smith (2016), and Sect. 3.7 below.

  9. 9.

    Here and below, we will treat the person formative as the ‘root’ of the pronoun; this is intended loosely as the most deeply embedded morpheme in the pronoun and the one that undergoes suppletion in the cases of interest. We do not intend to take a stand on whether pronouns have roots in some of the technical senses of that term.

  10. 10.

    See in particular Corbett (2005) for an extended argument that alternations in number for pronouns, such as Isgwepl are genuine instances of suppletion.

  11. 11.

    There is a rich tradition dating to work by Roman Jakobson (Jakobson 1936/1971) of using case syncretism to motivate internally complex cases; see for instance McCreight and Chvany (1991), Müller (2004) and Calabrese (2008) among others for somewhat different proposals than Caha’s.

  12. 12.

    Caha argues that there is a unique, total ordering of containment relations amongst the oblique cases. We do not make that assumption here and allow instead for different obliques to be built from the dependent case, rather than from each other, as suggested by the transparent containment relations in Romani in Table 5, where dative and locative both contain the accusative, but neither contains the other (see also Radkevich 2010; Zompì 2017). We return to this point below in Sect. 3.5.

  13. 13.

    See also Harðarson (2016) for evidence that the position of the genitive relative to the dative is not universally stable on Caha’s hierarchy. We include genitive and possessive forms in the data in the online appendix.

  14. 14.

    The online supplemental material includes the data from all 89 languages with a three-way contrast, since some patterns we exclude as non-suppletive are nevertheless irregular in one way or another, and thus relevant to our interests if other criteria for defining suppletion are used.

  15. 15.

    Data from Acharya (1991:107) and from Sushma Pokharel, personal communication. L and M refer to low and mid honorific grades of the second person.

  16. 16.

    This is of course the same issue that arises with the treatment of “irregularity” more broadly, as famously in the venerable English past tense debate. Our sense of suppletion is narrow, cf. Corbett’s (2007) “maximally irregular” phonology.

  17. 17.

    Although regularised to AAA in, for example, Nepali, as shown above.

  18. 18.

    See Moskal (2015a,b) for a discussion of a limited set of circumstances under which nominal (rather than pronominal) suppletion for case is possible, with analysis of corresponding examples.

  19. 19.

    Above, we have been representing case containment in terms of [ [ [ unmarked ] dependent ] oblique ]. Since Icelandic has a nominative–accusative case alignment, the case structure for Icelandic is [ [ [ nominative ] accusative ] dative ].

  20. 20.

    David Adger, Andrea Calabrese, and others have raised the question of whether one could treat the nominative as the marked form, and the non-nominative as the elsewhere case, thus accounting for its wider distribution. This depends on the representation of the unmarked case, e.g., whether the nominative is the absence of case, and thus the larger question of whether rules of suppletion may make reference to the absence of features. For degree morphology, the positive form of the adjective is typically the base for derivational morphology, hence that allomorph should be treated as context-free; but because pronouns do not typically participate in morphological derivation, an analogous argument is hard to construct. We maintain here that the featurally unmarked exponent should be the default, and return to the role of markedness in Sect. 4.3.3.

  21. 21.

    The Andi form is an ABB pattern: emi-/ƚƚe is the wh-root; -Ril is a suffix that distinguishes, according to the description, ‘known’ from ‘unknown’ wh-words.

  22. 22.

    The Albanian third person singular pronoun may also be an ABC pattern but is less clear; see fn. 96 below.

  23. 23.

    Radkevich’s structure is more articulated than the one given here. In addition, she argues that patterns of portmanteau morphology suggest that place and path (and their dependents) form a (surface) constituent, to the exclusion of the dependent case node. See Pantcheva (2011) for an approach which posits a total order among the local cases.

  24. 24.

    Even if we set aside the possibility of a partial, rather than a total, order among the oblique cases, it may be possible to analyse the final z in the dative as constituting the same formative as the initial z\(^{\text{w}}\)- in the other forms, and thus an AAA pattern. Nina Radkevich calls our attention to Alekseev (1985:70–75), who analyses both the genitive and dative as arising (historically) from metathesis of z and w, plus a vowel change, and finds evidence for the components of this analysis in related languages. This analysis may be supported by analogy to the Archi 1sg forms, which show a similar pattern, including devoicing in the genitive (1b) (see Moskal 2013; Alekseev 1985):

    1. (i)
      figurei
  25. 25.

    See, for example, Trommer (2008) and Spencer and Stump (2013) for opposing views on the treatment of oblique case suffixes in Hungarian as case affixes or as phonologically dependent postpositions.

  26. 26.

    By contrast, the comitative pattern would not be problematic even if the comitative were to turn out to be best analysed as a postposition: as long as the comitative selects an ergative complement, it is the ergative that is triggering the relevant suppletion.

  27. 27.

    Our study encompasses primarily personal pronouns, although other pronoun types (demonstrative, interrogative, etc.) should, all else being equal, show analogous patterns. A potential ABA counter-example comes from Khakas demonstratives (Brown et al. 2003; Baskakov 1975) called to our attention by Stanislao Zompì, though as Zompì notes, it is only problematic if one accepts that there a single, suppletive, demonstrative paradigm, as opposed to two defective series of demonstratives, with overlapping, but slightly different, meaning, cf., perhaps, Baskakov (1975:151).

  28. 28.

    AAB is also found in our number survey, and is frequently attested in suppletion for clusivity, see Moskal (to appear).

  29. 29.

    Nakh-Daghestanian is a rich source for suppletion. In addition to the A(A)B and AAB patterns discussed, one also finds ABB patterns in among the 2sg pronouns, as in Avar: abs: mun, erg: du-la, dat: du-r.

  30. 30.

    (20) represents one possible way of expressing the interaction of number and case in Wardaman, where the non-singular marker -bulu is absent in the plural dative. As in any non-transparent containment structure, an additional mechanism is needed to ensure that the ergative exponent -yi/-ji is not overtly expressed in the dative. Theories invoking containment have ready means to express this.

  31. 31.

    This is consistent with Greenberg’s Universal 39: “Where morphemes of both number and case are present and both follow or both precede the noun base, the expression of number almost always comes between the noun base and the expression of case.”

  32. 32.

    The relevance of these forms was originally pointed out by an anonymous reviewer of Bobaljik (2012). Andrea Calabrese, in a work in progress, offers an alternative characterisation in which on-, respectively, en- are the underlying forms of the pronominal bases and in which no suppletion is involved. Rather, the nominative forms involve an augmentation of the base (compare our treatment of Archi, above), mirroring in some ways the historical development of the irregular nominatives for the first person, at least (Andronov 2003:156–163).

  33. 33.

    Not all cases are shown here. The genitive/oblique is zero-marked, and thus may give the impression that the dative (and other postpositional cases such as the locative, not shown) are built from the genitive/oblique. We take no stand on whether the dative is built from the genitive (since we have remained agnostic about the position of genitive in a case hierarchy) or whether all the obliques abstractly contain the accusative, with a zero marker in the genitive making it look “smaller.” Our discussion here focuses on the relation between case and number.

  34. 34.

    Our conclusions from the Chuvash versus Evenki contrast are tentative, not least because (i) the alternation p/bm could be morphophonological, rather than suppletive, and (ii) whether the plural u intervenes between the root and the case marker in Evenki depends on how one segments the plural pronominal base. If the pronouns are segmented as b-i, m-i-ne, s-u, s-i-ne etc., recognising distinct person and number morphemes, then the b-m- alternation has a non-adjacent trigger (case). Alternatively, one could posit an ablaut rule, changing i to u without decomposing the pronominal bases into person and number, which would leave the case-driven alternation as applying to structurally adjacent morphemes.

  35. 35.

    The apparent ‘blocking’ effect seen in Khakas is not a locality effect under this approach and must be stated in the vocabulary insertion rules of that language. Moskal and Smith (2016) propose that it is the non-nominative singular forms that are suppletive, and are picked out by VI-rule in (ia) that makes reference to both number and case. All other forms (nominative singular and all plural forms) use the elsewhere form of the base, determined by the elsewhere rule in (ib):

    1. (i)
      figurem

    Alternatively, one may simply state in the rule itself that the Khakas non-nominative form requires adjacency to K (as in (iia)) as opposed to the Tamil oblique allomorph, which requires only (domain-local) c-command, but not adjacency (iib). If singular number is pruned or otherwise not present in the structure at the point of vocabulary insertion, the rules in (ii) will distinguish the two types of system.

    1. (ii)
      figuren

    Since the blocking effects are not immediately relevant to our purposes, we refer the reader to Moskal and Smith (2016) for further discussion.

  36. 36.

    It should be noted that adopting this view of case containment may yet turn out to be inconsistent with the view of locality advocated for in Moskal (2015a). There, she argues that a small number of instances of case suppletion in lexical nouns results from the absence of a number node, which brings case into the Accessibility Domain of the root. However, adopting the structural containment of case means that in the ‘one-node-above-cyclic-nodes’ approach that Moskal gives, case suppletion in lexical nouns is unable to be stated, since the only node able to be targeted would be K1, and hence there would be no way to distinguish K1 from K2. A similar set of questions is raised if NumberP is split, as we suggest below, or if there are other functional elements in the nominal spine.

  37. 37.

    In fact the opposite is also attested, with the plural apparently containing the dual. For expository reasons, we hold that in abeyance for the moment, returning to such evidence in Sect. 4.3.

  38. 38.

    According to McGregor, the inclusive does not have a specific unit-augmented form.

  39. 39.

    See Daniel (2005) for an overview of plural marking in independent pronouns. In Daniel’s survey of 261 languages, almost 3/4 show suppletion for number, either with (69) or without (114) an independent plural affix. Daniel does not include duals, and so is not informative for the current study.

  40. 40.

    We also note that Mapuche builds the plural from the dual, not vice versa.

  41. 41.

    Third person the is also a demonstrative, but has a different plural and dual as demonstrative than as pronoun.

  42. 42.

    Thanks to Kenyon Branan for pointing these out to us.

  43. 43.

    The neutralisation of a 2 vs. 3 person contrast in the plural suggests that only one of these is properly considered an ABC pattern.

  44. 44.

    Sources: Wambaya (Nordlinger 1998), Yagua, (Payne and Payne 1990), Dehu (Smith 2011). Smith draws on an old source, and may give an incomplete paradigm. The description in Lenormand (1999:24–27) decomposes the pronouns into an honorific prefix, a person root, and a number suffix, and presents a more regular picture, with ABB in the first person, but regular AAA person formatives in the second and third persons.

  45. 45.

    There is no dual in third person.

  46. 46.

    See Terrill (1998:23–25) for further discussion of the Biri forms. Terrill suggests an etymology for dual yibala that involves “the /u/ being fronted to /i/ after the /y/” (p. 25). She suggests also that the alternative second person plural yubala is a recent addition to the language. Note that -bala is not a regular number affix in the language.

  47. 47.

    We will assume that the explanation give for Wajarri is the same for Nyamal.

  48. 48.

    Suppletion for number also occurs with verbs (Veselinova 2006; Bobaljik and Harley 2017) and adjectives (Harbour 2008 on Kiowa), which are beyond the scope of our inquiries.

  49. 49.

    The reason for why the order of the columns has been switched to singular–dual–plural will become apparent shortly.

  50. 50.

    Examples are presented with Harbour’s segmentation and analysis.

  51. 51.

    In Lavukaleve, it appears that there is language-internal variation on this point. In pronouns, descriptively, dual forms are built from plurals. Nouns generally do not show overt containment, however there are some irregular nouns that in the plural end in lav (our example above is one of these). It is possible here potentially to decompose the ‘plural’ suffix into l+av. l is a frequent dual marker in the language, and av is a marker of plurality as well, in some words, which is a variant of a general [Vv] morpheme for plurality. In this instance, in terms of the analysis of number to be adopted below, it is possible to view l as the spell-out of [−singular], and av as the spell-out of [+augmented]. Tulav, our example listed in Table 50, would then have the decomposition as follows:

    1. (i)
      figureq

    On this analysis, the plural is built on top of the dual for nouns of this type (at least: the only overt morphological evidence we have is for a noun vs. pronoun contrast), and the triple would constitute an AAB pattern, rather than ABA.

  52. 52.

    This is a simplification of Harbour’s conclusions, which are broader than applying only to languages which make a distinction between singular, plural and dual.

  53. 53.

    An alternative to [±augmented] is its inverse: [±minimal]. Harbour (2014) settles on [±augmented] since recursion of this feature allows him to capture richer number distinctions including paucals, see Harbour (2014) for other number systems. Depending on the combination of the features, we make further predictions about suppletive patterns where the features stand in containment relations.

  54. 54.

    Note that the fourth combination [+singular, +augmented] is semantically incoherent; [−augmented] is therefore redundant in the context of [+singular].

  55. 55.

    Harbour’s (2008) analysis of adjectival suppletion in Kiowa seemingly requires that [±singular] and [±augmented] be on the same head, Number\(^{\text{0}}\). However, that argument relies on the assumption that the trigger for suppletion must be strictly adjacent (structurally and linearly) to the target, an assumption that we have argued above is unsupportable. Note that having both features on a single head also requires a less transparent mapping from syntax to affix order, when both [±singular] and [±augmented] have discrete exponents, as in Manam. For whatever it is worth, our proposal will allow a 1:1 mapping from syntactic heads to overt affixes, respecting some version of the mirror principle (Baker 1985). In more recent work, Harbour does distribute the features across nodes, for example, in the analysis of constructed duals in Harbour (2017).

  56. 56.

    It should be borne in mind that we are not making the claim that this is the universal structure of NumP. Harbour (2014) shows that there are languages that do not make use of the feature [±singular], and only use [±augmented] (languages which only make a minimal-augmented contrast for instance). Other features, and combinations are attested, see Harbour (2014) for discussion.

  57. 57.

    Moskal (to appear) notes that within the realm of clusivity there is variation as to whether the inclusive or the exclusive serves as the base for the other. That is, in some languages, the inclusive form seems to contain the exclusive form, whereas in others, the exclusive form contains the inclusive form. This is the same situation that we note for the containment of dual and plural above. However, Moskal (to appear) shows that there is this time no evidence that suppletion also varies along these lines. That is, although containment relations at times suggest the triple singular–inclusive–exclusive, suppletion patterns never follow this triple. This difference to number goes beyond the scope of our paper, and we refer the reader to Moskal (to appear) for further discussion.

  58. 58.

    In the absence of concrete evidence to suggest otherwise, we assume that these show the same markedness ‘reversal’ that Hopi does. Note that there is suggestive evidence that this is the case in Lavukaleve, at least for the case that is listed in Table 57, see fn. 52 above.

  59. 59.

    We omit the [±augmented] node in the singular, as the value is redundant, but adding it in (36a) would not affect the point here.

  60. 60.

    That [+sg] is unmarked, relative to [−sg] in the sense used here is well established: if one value of number is systematically null, with the other value(s) bearing an overt mark, then it is singular which is systematically null (Corbett 2000). We put aside the interesting question here of the relation of morphological markedness to semantic markedness (on which see Bobaljik et al. 2011).

  61. 61.

    As a reviewer and others note, one could ask about German m-ich whether an alternative segmentation should be considered, in light of nominative ich, which would take the m- to be an accusative prefix, unique to the first person singular. While acknowledging that the personal pronoun paradigm is a small, closed class, and that the child acquiring German might consider various possible segmentations, there are more parallels speaking in favour of the analysis we have given. Along with the general observation that German nominal inflection is uniquely suffixing, all of the following pairwise proportional analogies support this analysis, where there is no proportional analogy that can be made in the language to support a putative m- accusative prefix: mich:dich::mir:dir, mich:mir::dich:dir, mich:mein::dich:dein, mich:mein::sich:sein (and so on for inflected forms of the possessive). We assume that some such tallying goes into the weighting of the likelihood of different competing segmentations.

  62. 62.

    We thank Martin Haspelmath, in comments on an earlier draft, for pressing us to be clear about this important issue.

  63. 63.

    See Sect. 3.5.

  64. 64.

    Some subject pronouns in Basaa are suppletive with respect to the ‘independent’ series, which occurs in all other positions, but it is not clear that this is a case-driven alternation, and in any event, Hyman does not provide evidence for a distinction analysable as more than a two-way distinction in case.

  65. 65.

    There is evidently a third person pronominal formative a-, alternating with demonstrative k(ë)-. While the person formative is thus invariant (AAA), the marking of masculine (contrasting with feminine) shows an ABB pattern in the singular (-i, -të, -tij), compared to an AAA pattern in the plural.

  66. 66.

    We tentatively treat this as synchronically suppletive, although historically, they may share a stem.

  67. 67.

    Note also corresponding feminine forms: sɔ–tami–təmis–etc. Since gender distinctions are lost in the dative and ablative, the feminine forms have not been counted as distinct from the ABB pattern in the masculine series.

  68. 68.

    Despite the -n- in all three cases, we treat the onnj(e)- alternation as suppletive, as the initial n- in the non-nominatives, which occurs only after prepositions in most Slavic languages, does not come from the same source as the -n in the nominative (Hill 1977). This suppletive root is shared by all third person pronouns, to which morphology indicating number, gender, and case is added. We list the feminine and plural forms separately below, but as they share a base, they are not truly independent datapoints for suppletion. See also the discussion of Polish in the main text.

  69. 69.

    As in Slavic, the suppletive third person pronominal base is shared across distinct number and gender forms.

  70. 70.

    If the masculine singular is treated as ABB as in fn. 76, then the feminine would appear to be ABC (-jo, -të, -saj) once the pronominal formative a- is factored out.

  71. 71.

    See also fn. 93.

  72. 72.

    Initial nga- also occurs in the second person so cannot be treated as the unique formative for 1sg, suggesting an AAB analysis. Alternatively, it may be AAA with some irregularity.

  73. 73.

    McGregor (1990:170) notes that the oblique stem nhoowoo corresponds only to the 3sg pronoun, and not to the homophonous determiner niyi ‘that’, consistent with analysing this as a suppletive alternation for the pronoun.

  74. 74.

    Initial nga- also occurs in the second and third person singular accusatives, so cannot be treated as the unique formative for 1sg, suggesting an AAB analysis. Alternatively, it may be AAA with some irregularity. Apparently cognate forms occur in Wambaya, but see fn. 74.

  75. 75.

    Cognate: Wambaya.

  76. 76.

    The alternation ña-, ña-, ŋaŋ- is similar to that in neighbouring Jingulu, although these languages are not described as related in, for example, Pensalfini (2001).

  77. 77.

    This pronoun marks masculine class as opposed to male, and is used only by female speakers (Kirton 1996:12). The order of the cases presents a possible challenge to Caha’s hierarchy; see note in supplemental online materials.

  78. 78.

    Initial ŋa- is common to all first persons across three numbers. The dual and plural pronouns are readily segmented, but the first singular stem is not.

  79. 79.

    Also Jehai.

  80. 80.

    Cognates: Ambai, Boumaa Fijian, Hawaiian, Manam, Maori, Mokilese, Paamese, Pileni, Rapa Nui, Rotuman, Samoan, Santali, Sursurunga, Tangga, Tiri, Tokelauan, Toqabaqita, Tuvaluan, Warembori.

  81. 81.

    Cognates: Boumaa Fijian, Hawaiian, Manam, Maori, Mokilese, Pileni, Rapa Nui, Rotuman, Samoan, Sursurunga, Tangga, Tiri, Toqabaqita, Tuvaluan, Warembori.

  82. 82.

    Cognates: Ambai, Boumaa Fijian, Ngaju, Sursurunga, Tangga, Dehu, Toqabaqita, Warembori.

  83. 83.

    Cognates: Ambai, Boumaa Fijian, Hawaiian, Manam, Maori, Mokilese, Ngaju, Pileni, Rotuman, Samoan, Sursurunga, Tangga, Tokelauan, Toqabaqita, Tuvaluan, Warembori.

  84. 84.

    Cognate: Jingulu.

  85. 85.

    Cognates: Ngaju, Santali.

  86. 86.

    Cognate: Tiri.

  87. 87.

    This is an ABBC pattern. Dual has been excluded from the table. The triple is singular–plural–paucal.

  88. 88.

    Cognate: Jingulu.

  89. 89.

    Cognates: Flinders Island, Jarnango, Kuku-Yalanji, Nyawaygi, Wajarri, Wikngenchera.

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Acknowledgements

Portions of the work on this paper were carried out under the auspices of a Guggenheim Fellowship to Bobaljik, and with research support from the University of Connecticut, both of which are gratefully acknowledged.

We are grateful to Daniel Harbour, Martin Haspelmath and two anonymous reviewers for comments on an earlier version of this paper. Questions and suggestions from audiences at various venues have helped us refine and improve the paper, including those at the LAGB, NELS 45, GLOW 48, Roots IV, SinFonIJA 9, the 2017 Debrecen Workshop in Pronouns, the Word and the Morpheme (Berlin, 2017), as well as at Bucharest, Cambridge, Concordia, Connecticut, Goethe-Universität Frankfurt, Göttingen, Harvard, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Leibniz-Zentrum Allgemeine Sprachwissenschaft (Berlin), Leipzig, Maryland, NYU, Pennsylvania, Princeton, and Vienna. We would particularly like to acknowledge useful discussions with Andrea Calabrese, Heidi Harley, Ora Matushansky, Uli Sauerland, and Susi Wurmbrand.

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Appendices

Appendix A: Case

This appendix lists all the languages examined for case suppletion. For each language, we indicate in the second column (>2K) whether the language has more than two cases (apart from genitive and vocative). For these languages, we indicate whether we have identified suppletion for case, and if so in which pronouns. The online appendix provides the full dataset from all of the languages marked “Y” in the second column, i.e., as having enough case distinctions to be relevant to the study at hand.

A.1 Overview

Language >2K Suppletion Source
Abkhaz N   Chirikba (2003)
Abui N   Kratochvil (2007)
Afrikaans N AB Donaldson (1980)
Ainu N   Tamura (2000)
Alamblak Y none Bruce (1984)
Albanian Y ABB: 1sg, 3sg.m; ABC: 3sg.f Newmark (1982)
Amuesha N   Duff-Tripp (1997)
Arabela N   Rich (1999)
Araona N   Pitman (1980)
Archi Y AAB: 2sg, 1sg, 1plexcl, 1plincl; ?ABA: 2plFootnote

See Sect. 3.5.

Kibrik and Kodzasov (1990) Brown et al. (2003)
Armenian Y ABB: 1sg, 2sg, 2pl Kozintseva (1995)
Awa Pit Y none Curnow (1997)
Basaa N Footnote

Some subject pronouns in Basaa are suppletive with respect to the ‘independent’ series, which occurs in all other positions, but it is not clear that this is a case-driven alternation, and in any event, Hyman does not provide evidence for a distinction analysable as more than a two-way distinction in case.

Hyman (2003)
Basque Y ABB: 3sg.prox Saltarelli et al. (1988)
Bawm N   Reichle (1981)
Bengali (Chittagong) Y none Učida (1970)

A.2 ABB patterns

The following table lists plausible cognate triples of pronouns showing the ABB suppletive patterns for case that we have identified. Since absolute numbers are not relevant, as opposed to the distinction between attested and unattested, we have made a number of educated guesses about cognates without making a careful study of each language. Note that only a single illustrative example of each cognate triple is given, with notes on where other languages have cognate forms given in the final column. For example, the Icelandic 1sg forms ég–mig–mér have cognates across Indo-European (Russian: ja–menja–mne; Latin ego–mē–mihi, etc.; see Table 10 in main text), but as these all descend from a common source, only one example is given in the table. Where it appears to us that a pronominal form may not be cognate with all forms in a related language (as in the Albanian nominative unë), we have listed such forms as separate entries.

Table 10 Stability of ABB in Indo-European languages
Table 11 AAA patterns in Lezgian (Haspelmath 1993)
Table 12 ABB patterns in Armenian (Kozintseva 1995)
Table 13 Suppletion in interrogative pronouns in Nakh-Daghestanian languages
Table 14 ABB (2sg) in Itelmen (Bobaljik, Field Notes)
Table 15 1sg pronouns in some Nakh-Daghestanian languages
Table 16 Murle pronouns (Arensen 1982)
Table 17 Pronouns of Archi
Table 18 The spatial case paradigm of Lezgian
Table 19 Nen pronouns in selected cases
Table 20 Syncretic AAB 2sg patterns in Nakh-Daghestanian
Table 21 {A=A}B in German
Table 22 {A=A}B in Kadugli
Table 23 Case driven stem alternations (McFadden 2014, 2018)
Table 24 AAB without syncretism in Nakh-Daghestanian 2sg pronouns
Table 25 AAB without syncretism in Wardaman
Table 26 Blocking of case suppletion in Khakas (Baskakov 1975:146)
Table 27 Suppletion across a number head in Tamil (Asher 1982:118)
Table 28 Chuvash local pronouns (Clark 1998)
Table 29 Evenki local pronouns (Nedjalkov 1997)
Table 30 Suppletion in Rutul wh-words (Erschler 2017)
Table 31 Pronominals in Warrwa
Table 32 Number suppletion: Summary
Table 33 Awtuw pronouns (Smith 2011)
Table 34 Clusivity in Djamindjung (Smith 2011)
Table 35 Ilocano as a language with dual
Table 36 Ilocano with a minimal-augmented analysis
Table 37 AAA in Mapuche (Smeets 2008)
Table 38 ABB and AAA in (Northern) Qiang (Smith 2011)
Table 39 ABB in Kayardild (Evans 1995)
Table 40 ABB in Kham (Watters 2002:160)
Table 41 ABB in Gothic (Smith 2011)
Table 42 ABC in Kham reflexive pronouns (Watters 2002:162–163)
Table 43 ABC in Jehai (Smith 2011)
Table 44 Savosavo (Smith 2011)
Table 45 Bukiyip (Smith 2011)
Table 46 AAB patterns for number
Table 47 The pronominals of Biri (Terrill 1998; Smith 2011)
Table 48 Potential ABA in Yagua (Payne and Payne 1990)
Table 49 Wajarri (Smith 2011)
Table 50 Number suppletion in lexical nouns
Table 51 Sursurunga: Plural in dual (Harbour 2014)
Table 52 Mokilese: Dual in plural (Harbour 2014)
Table 53 Panytyima: Dual in plural (Smith 2011)
Table 54 Dual containment in Hopi
Table 55 Evenki (Nedjalkov 1997)
Table 56 Paraguayan Guaraní (Gregores and Suárez 1967)
Table 57 Lexical noun suppletion
Table 58 Slovenian lexical nouns

We have titled the case columns as unmarked (=nominative/absolutive), marked 1 and marked 2. While the general orientation is nominative–accusative–dative or absolutive–ergative–dative, where syncretism would obscure the relevant patterns, we have made substitutions. For example, in Armenian, pronouns do not show a nominative vs. accusative distinction, hence the cases here are nominative/accusative–dative–ablative. Likewise, Albanian first and second person singular pronouns do not distinguish accusative and dative, so we have used nominative–accusative/dative–ablative. As noted in the main text, we have avoided genitive pronouns in this study as we have been unable to systematically distinguish genitive case from possessive pronouns in many of our sources.

Language Pronoun Cases Notes
Unmarked Marked 1 Marked 2
Indo-European:     
Icelandic 1sg ég mig mér cognates widespread in Indo-European
Albanian 1sg unë mua meje  
Armenian (E) 1sg es inj inj(a)nic  
Armenian (E) 2sg du k’ez k’ez(a)nic  
Russian 1pl my nas nam cognates across Slavic
Armenian (E) 2pl duk jez jez(a)nic  
Albanian 3sg(m) ai (a)të atij Footnote

There is evidently a third person pronominal formative a-, alternating with demonstrative k(ë)-. While the person formative is thus invariant (AAA), the marking of masculine (contrasting with feminine) shows an ABB pattern in the singular (-i, -të, -tij), compared to an AAA pattern in the plural.

German 3sg(m) er ihn ihm Footnote

We tentatively treat this as synchronically suppletive, although historically, they may share a stem.

Kashmiri 3sg(m) su təm’ təmis (remote)Footnote

Note also corresponding feminine forms: sɔ–tami–təmis–etc. Since gender distinctions are lost in the dative and ablative, the feminine forms have not been counted as distinct from the ABB pattern in the masculine series.

Serbian 3sg(m) on nje-ga nje-mu cognates across SlavicFootnote

Despite the -n- in all three cases, we treat the onnj(e)- alternation as suppletive, as the initial n- in the non-nominatives, which occurs only after prepositions in most Slavic languages, does not come from the same source as the -n in the nominative (Hill 1977). This suppletive root is shared by all third person pronouns, to which morphology indicating number, gender, and case is added. We list the feminine and plural forms separately below, but as they share a base, they are not truly independent datapoints for suppletion. See also the discussion of Polish in the main text.

Serbian 3sg(f) ona nju njoj cognates across Slavic
Serbian 3pl(m) oni njih njima cognates across Slavic
Romani (Kalderaš) 3sg(m) vo(v) les lés-kə Footnote

As in Slavic, the suppletive third person pronominal base is shared across distinct number and gender forms.

Romani (Kalderaš) 3sg(f) vój la lá-kə  
Romani (Kalderaš) 3sg(f) von le lén-gə  
Armenian (E) emph ink’e iren irenic  
Dravidian:     
Brahui 1sg ī kane kanki  
Tamil 1sg naan en en-akku also Malayalam

A.3 ABC patterns

Language Pronoun Cases Notes
Unmarked Marked 1 Marked 2
Indo-European:     
Albanian 3sg.f ajo (a)të asaj Footnote

If the masculine singular is treated as ABB as in fn. 76, then the feminine would appear to be ABC (-jo, -të, -saj) once the pronominal formative a- is factored out.

Nakh-Dagestanian:     
Khinalugh 1sg as(ɨr)  

A.4 AAB patterns

Language Pronoun Cases Notes
Unmarked Marked 1 Marked 2
Algic:     
Yurok 3sg yoʔ, woʔ, yoʔo⋅t, woʔo⋅t yoʔo⋅t, woʔo⋅t weyaʔik  
Australian:     Footnote

See also fn. 93.

Gooniyandi 1sg nganyi nganyi-ngga ngaddagi Footnote

Initial nga- also occurs in the second person so cannot be treated as the unique formative for 1sg, suggesting an AAB analysis. Alternatively, it may be AAA with some irregularity.

Gooniyandi 3sg niyi niyi-ngga nhoowoo Footnote

McGregor (1990:170) notes that the oblique stem nhoowoo corresponds only to the 3sg pronoun, and not to the homophonous determiner niyi ‘that’, consistent with analysing this as a suppletive alternation for the pronoun.

Jingulu 1sg ngaya ngayarni, ngayirni ngarr- Footnote

Initial nga- also occurs in the second and third person singular accusatives, so cannot be treated as the unique formative for 1sg, suggesting an AAB analysis. Alternatively, it may be AAA with some irregularity. Apparently cognate forms occur in Wambaya, but see fn. 74.

Jingulu 2sg nyama nyamarni ngaank-, ngank- Footnote

Cognate: Wambaya.

Mangarayi 2sg ñaŋgi ña-n ŋaŋgi Footnote

The alternation ña-, ña-, ŋaŋ- is similar to that in neighbouring Jingulu, although these languages are not described as related in, for example, Pensalfini (2001).

Wardaman 3sg narnaj narnaj-(j)i gunga  
Wardaman 3pl narnaj-bulu narnaj-bulu-yi wurrugu  
Yanyuwa 3sg.m alhi alhinja ayu Footnote

This pronoun marks masculine class as opposed to male, and is used only by female speakers (Kirton 1996:12). The order of the cases presents a possible challenge to Caha’s hierarchy; see note in supplemental online materials.

A.5 Other patterns (analysis unclear, but implausible as ABA)

Language Pronoun Cases Notes
Unmarked Marked 1 Marked 2
Australian:     
Yidiny 1sg ŋayu ŋaɲaɲ ŋaḑu:nda ∼ ŋanda Footnote

Initial ŋa- is common to all first persons across three numbers. The dual and plural pronouns are readily segmented, but the first singular stem is not.

Appendix B: Number

B.1 Languages studied

Language Suppletion Form Source
!Xhoo none   Traill (1994)
Afrikaans AB   Donaldson (1993)
Akwesansne Mohawk none   Bonvillain (1973)
Aleut none   Bergsland (1997)
Ambai ABB 1/2/3 Smith (2011)
Awtuw ABB/ABA 1/2 Smith (2011)
Bāgandji none   Hercus (1982)
Bardi ABB 1incl/2/3 Smith (2011)
Basque AB   de Rijk (2007)
Belait ABC 1/2 Smith (2011)
Berik none   Westrum (1988)
Bilua none   Obata (2003)
Biri none   Smith (2011)
Boumaa Fijian ABB 1excl/1incl/2/3 Dixon (1988)
Bukiyip ABB/ABC 1/2/3m/3f Smith (2011)
Bunaba ABB 1excl/2/3 Smith (2011)
Burushaski AB   Berger (1998)
Camling none   Smith (2011)
Carib none   Courtz (2008)
Cavineña ABB/ABC 1/3prox Guillaume (2008)
Chepang none   Smith (2011)
Comanche none   Charney (1993)
Crow none   Graczyk (2007)
Dagaare AB   Bodomo (1997)
Dehu ABC/ABB/AAB 1excl/1incl/2/3m Smith (2011), Tryon (1970)
Djamindjung ABB/ABC 1excl/1incl/2/3 Smith (2011)
Dolakha Newar none   Genetti (2007)
Dumi none   van Driem (1993)
Dyirbal none   Smith (2011)
Dzongha none   van Driem (1992)
Eastern Pomo AB 1 McLendon (1975)
Evenki none   Smith (2011)
Finnish none   Karlsson (1999)
Flinders Island ABC, ABA 1incl/2/3 Smith (2011)
Forest Enets none   Smith (2011)
Gagadu ABB/ABC 1incl.m/1incl.f/3m/3f Smith (2011)
Gothic ABB 1/2 Smith (2011)
Gurinji none   Smith (2011)

B.2 ABB patterns

Below we list the plausible candidates of ABB patterns for number. Once more, as absolute numbers are not relevant, we have made educated guesses regarding what counts as a cognate.

Language Pron Numbers Notes
Singular Plural Dual
Austro-Asiatic:     
Semelai 1excl ʔəɲ yeʔen  
Semelai 1incl ʔəɲ hεʔen Footnote

Also Jehai.

Mlabri 2 mεh bah jum/Ɉum bah  
Austronesian     
Kwamera 1excl iou kɨmaha kɨmrau Footnote

Cognates: Ambai, Boumaa Fijian, Hawaiian, Manam, Maori, Mokilese, Paamese, Pileni, Rapa Nui, Rotuman, Samoan, Santali, Sursurunga, Tangga, Tiri, Tokelauan, Toqabaqita, Tuvaluan, Warembori.

Kwamera 1incl iou kɨitaha krau Footnote

Cognates: Boumaa Fijian, Hawaiian, Manam, Maori, Mokilese, Pileni, Rapa Nui, Rotuman, Samoan, Sursurunga, Tangga, Tiri, Toqabaqita, Tuvaluan, Warembori.

Kwamera 2 ik kɨmiaha kɨmirau Footnote

Cognates: Ambai, Boumaa Fijian, Ngaju, Sursurunga, Tangga, Dehu, Toqabaqita, Warembori.

Kwamera 3 in iraha irau Footnote

Cognates: Ambai, Boumaa Fijian, Hawaiian, Manam, Maori, Mokilese, Ngaju, Pileni, Rotuman, Samoan, Sursurunga, Tangga, Tokelauan, Toqabaqita, Tuvaluan, Warembori.

Bukiyip     
Bukiyip 3m énan / nani omom mami omom bwiom  
Bukiyip 3f okok / kwakwi owo wawi echech bwiech  
Bunaban     
Bunaba 1excl ngayini ngiyirriyani ngiyirriway  
Bunaba 2 nginji yinggirriyani yinggirriway  
Bunaba 3 niy biyirriyani biyirriway  
Djamindjungan     
Djamindjung 1excl ŋayug yirri yirrinji  
Djamindjung 2 nami gurri gurrinji  
Djamindjung 3 dji burri burrinji   
East Papuan     
Lavukaleve 1excl ngai e el  
Lavukaleve 1incl ngai me mel  
Indo-European     
Gothic 1 ik/mik weis/uns(is) wit/ugkis  
Gothic 2 þu/þuk jus/izwis jut/igqis  
Gunwingguan     
Gagadu 1incl.m ngannj manaada manaamana  
Gagadu 1incl.f ngannj maneemba manaanjdja  
Ngandi 1incl njaka ŋorrkorr ŋorrkorni  
Mangarayi 2 ŋiaŋgi rnurla rnurr  
Gagadu 3m ngaayu nowooda nowoomana  
Mirndi     
Wambaya 2 nyamirniji girriyani gurluwani Footnote

Cognate: Jingulu.

B.3 ABC patterns

Language Pron Numbers Notes
Singular Plural Dual
Austro-Asiatic     
Jehai 2 mɔh/miʔ/paj gin jɨh  
Austronesian     
Dehu 1excl ini eëhun(i) nyiho  
Belait 1incl kaw/ko(h), sakay’ kitah, nyakitah beh-debbeh Footnote

Cognates: Ngaju, Santali.

Belait 2 naw/no(h), ciw’ (s)unyiw beh(-debbeh), sebbeh Footnote

Cognate: Tiri.

Bilua     
Bilua 2 ngo me qe  
Bilua 3.m.sg.distal vo se nioqa  
Bukiyip     
Bukiyip 1 yek apak ohwak  
Bukiyip 2 nyak ipak bwiepu  
Caviniña     
Cavineña 1 ike ekwana yatse  
Djamindjungan     
Djamindjung 1incl ŋayug yurri mindi  
East-Papuan     
Savosavo 2 no me pe  
Savosavo 3m lo ze(po) to  
Gunwingguan     
Gagadu 3f naawu nowoomba ngoyoonjdja/nowoonjdja  
Nyulnyulan     
Yawuru 3 ginjaŋga/yona yerga/gaŋadjono njambari/gadambari  
Pama-Nyungan     
Pitta-Pitta 3m.near uwayi anayi pulayi  
Pitta-Pitta 3m.general uwaka anaka pulaka  
Pitta-Pitta 3m.far uw:rri ana:rri pula:rri  
Sepik-Ramu     
Yimas 1 ama ipa paŋkt Footnote

This is an ABBC pattern. Dual has been excluded from the table. The triple is singular–plural–paucal.

Sino-Tibetan     
Mongsen Ao 1excl íla/îkhéla kenet  

B.4 AAB patterns

Language Pron Numbers Notes
Singular Plural Dual
Austronesian     
Dehu 3m angeice angate nyido  
Mirndi     
Wambaya 1incl ngawurniji, ngawu ngurruwani mirndiyani Footnote

Cognate: Jingulu.

Yagua     
Yagua 2 jiy jiryéy sááda  

B.5 Other patterns (analysis unclear, but implausible as ABA)

Language Pron Numbers Notes
Singular Plural Dual
Austro-Asiatic     
Mlabri 1excl ʔoh ʔah jum, Ɉum ʔah  
East Papuan     
Savosavo 1excl añi ave age  
Lavukalave 2 inu imi imil  
Gunwingguan     
Ngandi 1excl ŋaya njerr njoworni  
Mangarayi     
Mangarayi 1excl ŋaya ŋirla ŋirr  
Mangarayi 1incl ŋi ŋarla ŋarr  
Pama-Nyungan     
Flinders Island 1incl ŋayu ŋalapal ŋaluntu  
Flinders Island 2 yuntu yarra yupala  
Nyamal 3 palura thanalu piyalu Footnote

Cognates: Flinders Island, Jarnango, Kuku-Yalanji, Nyawaygi, Wajarri, Wikngenchera.

Nyamal 3 palura thanalu piyalu  
Yanyuwa 3m (m)yiwa, (w)alhi alu wula  
Sepik-Ramu     
Awtuw 2 yen om an  
Yagua     
Yagua 3 níí riy naada  

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Smith, P.W., Moskal, B., Xu, T. et al. Case and number suppletion in pronouns. Nat Lang Linguist Theory 37, 1029–1101 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11049-018-9425-0

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Keywords

  • Suppletion
  • Case
  • Number
  • Dual
  • Pronouns
  • Structure