Plurality and definiteness in Mauritian and Haitian creoles

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In addition to plurality, creole plural morphemes impart an additional meaning of definiteness or specificity to the nominal expressions they mark. As of yet, there is no precise characterization either empirical or theoretical of the semantic/pragmatic dimensions they convey. Furthermore, the question of whether this added meaning is largely fixed across distinct creoles and plural morphemes, or subject to variations has never been examined. With the goal of bringing new insights intothese questions, this paper reports the results of a comparativestudy of the properties of two creole plural morphemes in two distinct French-lexifier creoles, Haitian Creole (HC) and Mauritian Creole (MC). Besides relying on native speaker intuitions, a detailed comparative qualitative and quantitative study of the uses of these plural morphemes was conducted in a textual corpus in two adaptations of the story of the Little Prince by Antoine De St Exupery, in Haitian Creole and in Mauritian Creole respectively. The results of this comparative investigation clearly demonstrate that the use of plural morphemes in the two creoles, though similarin a number of respects, also differ quite systematically. We observe that the distinctions noted closely mirror the uses of the singular definite marker ‘la’ bv’ also argued to subtly diverge in these two creoles (Wespel 2008, Déprez 2016, in preparation). The paper analyzes this mirroring effect as a consequence of the positions that the plural morphemes come to occupy in the nominal structure and of the way the structure building operations are constrained in the different creoles. Concretely it is argued that the plural morphemes come to derivationally occupy the position of definite articles in each of the languages, and that this derivational process is obligatory in Haitian Creole due to the pronominal nature of its plural morpheme, but remains optional in Mauritian.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)287-345
Number of pages59
JournalJournal of Pidgin and Creole Languages
Issue number2
StatePublished - Nov 25 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


  • Bare Nouns
  • Definite Plural
  • Definiteness
  • Definiteness strong
  • Definiteness weak
  • Movement
  • Nominal structure
  • Plural Maximality
  • Plural exclusive
  • Plural inclusive
  • Plural syntax
  • Pragmatic Definiteness
  • Semantic Definiteness
  • Specificity


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