Chapter 9. Number in Dinka

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In Dinka, a Western Nilotic language, nouns are inflected for number and distinguish between singular and plural. The number inflection is not expressed by affixation, but by phonological alternations in the root and in such a way that the number is not directly observable, but only detectable through agreement. With simple native nouns, which are typically monosyllables, the number inflection is unpredictable and irregular, but some fairly common singular-plural patterns can be established, as seen in the Agar dialect. There is strong internal and external evidence that originally, many nouns had a marked singular and an unmarked plural. Synchronically, however, the singular is arguably the basic member of the number category as revealed by the use of the two numbers. In addition, some nouns have a collective form, which is grammatically singular. Number also plays a role in the derivational morphology of verbs.


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