Plurals of Nouns - Nak'albun/Dzinghubun Dialect

Most Dakelh nouns do not have distinct singular and plural forms. How many items are under discussion may be inferred from context or may be specified by using a number or quantifier; otherwise, it remains ambiguous. With very limited exceptions, only nouns denoting human beings and dogs have distinct plural forms.

The most common way of forming the plural is by adding the suffix /-ne/. Thus, we have dune "man", dunene "men", dakelh "Dakelh person", dakelhne "Dakelh people". If the noun ends in /n/ the resulting plural simplifies the /nn/ cluster to /n/, e.g. ts'oodun "child", ts'oodune "children".

Nouns derived from verbs by adding the suffix /-un/ form their plurals by replacing /-un/ with /-ne/. Thus we have hodulh'eh-un "teacher", hodulh'eh-ne "teachers", nudaih-un "dancer", nudaih-ne "dancers".

A smaller but nonetheless considerable number of nouns take the plural suffix /-ke/, e.g. lhi "dog", lhike "dogs". This is the usual way of making the plural of kinship terms, e.g. neloo "our mother", nelooke "our mothers". The plural suffix /-ne/ is occasionally heard on kinship terms, but the suffix /-ke/ is more widely used and generally considered to be more correct. The plural of "dog" is invariably lhike, never lhine.

In addition, there are a handful of nouns with irregular plurals:

chilhchilkeyoung man
-chul-chisleyounger brother
t'ett'edukooyoung woman

'at "wife" is also found with the more regular plural 'atke. t'et is sometimes found with the double plural t'edukoone. -dus "parent" is also found with the undoubled plural -duske.

The plural of a noun ending in one of the suffixes /-yaz/ "little", /-cho/ "big", or /ti/ "big" is formed by making the plural of the underlying noun and adding the suffix to the plural form. Thus we have duneyaz "boy", duneneyaz "boys", dunecho "adult", dunenecho "adults", lhiyaz "puppy" lhikeyaz "puppies", duneti "old man", duneneti "old men", ts'ekeyaz "girl", ts'ekooyaz "girls".

The exceptions to the statement that only nouns denoting human beings and dogs have disinct plurals are all nouns derived from verbs. The form of the underlying verb may vary with number in such a way as to create distinct number forms for the derived noun.

Where the deverbal noun is derived by means of the agentive suffix -un the verb is almost invariably in the third person singular form, which is to say, not marked for number. Plurality in these forms is normally marked only by the use of the duo-plural agentive suffix -ne in place of singular -un. Zero-derived agentive nouns may show plurality by means of subject markers. For example, "shaman" may be either duyun-un, with an overt agentive suffix, but the zero-marked duyun is more common. There are two plural forms: duyun-ne, with the duo-plural agentive suffix, and huduyun, in which the zero-marked form is based on the plural form of the verb.

There are two other cases in which the underlying verb may lead to a number distinction in the derived nouns. One is when the verb is restricted in the number of its absolutive argument. For example, there are two verbs "to kill", one that takes a singular or dual object, another that takes a strictly plural object. Since the word "prey" is derived from "kill", there are a singular-dual form be'duzulghe-i, based on the stem -ghe and a plural form be'dughan-i, based on the stem ghan.

The other case in which the underlying verb induces a number distinction in the derived noun is when the verb contains a prefix such as distributive /n/. For example, nati "cross-road" has the duo-plural nanuti. Similarly, 'udzatbeti "rabbit trail" has the duo-plural 'udzatbenuti. Such examples arise because the "noun" ti "road, trail" is really a verb and takes the distributive prefix.

Even if a noun posesses a plural form, it is not necessary for it to take on the plural form in order to have a plural meaning. Indeed, there is a strong tendancy to avoid overt marking of the plural if plurality is indicated in other ways, in particular, by an immediately following possessed noun. For example, the full form of "Dakelh language" is dakelhne bughuni, literally "the words of the Dakelh people". Here dakelhne consists of dakelh "Dakelh person" with the plural suffix -ne, and bughuni is the third person plural possessed form of khuni "words". The plurality of the possessor is indicated by the use of the third person duo-plural possessive prefix bu instead of the third person singular oo. The form dakelh bughuni, in which dakelh is not overtly plural-marked, is much preferred.