Number, Honor, and Agreement in Hindi-Urdu


  • Rajesh Bhatt University of Massachusetts, Amherst
  • Christopher Davis University of the Ryukyus


In Hindi-Urdu, the honorific marker ji: can be added to a third person nominal to signal honorification of the nominal referent. The use of ji: triggers plural agreement, despite the nominal itself being singular. We propose that the formative that carries the semantics of plurality (*) and the formative that carries the semantics of honorification (Hon) occupy the same syntactic position, which we identify as Num. These two formatives have the same formal features, which correspond to the features responsible for what is called plural agreement, and make the same selectional demand of their complement, namely that it appear in the oblique form. However the formatives have distinct realizations and distinct semantics. Both can have zero realization or overt realization; for honorification the overt realization can be at least -ji:, sa:b, mahoday, sir, ma’am, and for pluralization -˜a:, -˜o. The two formatives are in complementary distribution; Hon blocks and vice-versa; this means that the complement of Hon has no choice but to stay singular. We end by describingthe honorific distinctions shown with second-person pronouns, describing additional complexities that their analysis requires.