Number and Markedness: A View from Dagaare


  • Scott Grimm


Semantic theories of number currently debate whether the plural is weak (referring to both collections and individuals) or strong (referring to collections but not individuals). The former view holds that the plural is ‘unmarked’ as it is less specific; for the latter view, the singular is simpler and therefore ‘unmarked’. This paper examines the inverse number marking system of Dagaare (Gur; Niger-Congo), which proves problematic for both sides of the debate. The data demonstrate that the cross-linguistic facts are more complicated than if only the singular or plural were unmarked, instead markedness is conditioned upon a nominal’s level of individuation. Applying the logic of both strong and weak plural analyses shows that the strong plural analysis has better empirical traction in such systems.


How to Cite

Grimm, S. (2019). Number and Markedness: A View from Dagaare. Proceedings of Sinn Und Bedeutung, 14, 168–184. Retrieved from