Pluralisation in distributive predicates

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linguoboy
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Pluralisation in distributive predicates

Post by linguoboy »

Languages seem to behave differently when pluralising distributive predicates (e.g. they hung their heads in shame), and even within a language there may be variation. In English, the tendency to pluralise these objects is so strong that I even once heard a colleague say waste both our times.

So it was interesting when reading a Spanish novel to come across casi no abrieron la boca where the natural English equivalent would be "they hardly opened their mouths". I'm sure the use of the possessive in English as opposed to the definite article in Spanish has something to do with this. Compare what can happen in English when the article is indefinite: "They wanted a picture, they wanted a handshake, they wanted to have a word." Still, it reads oddly to me, as if the three people in question only have one mouth between them.

Examples from other languages? Interesting borderline cases?

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Neon Fox
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Re: Pluralisation in distributive prediciates

Post by Neon Fox »

linguoboy wrote: "They wanted a picture, they wanted a handshake, they wanted to have a word."


Hmmm. I think part of it in this specific sentence may be that it's the indefinite, pseudo-singular "they". I could be wrong, lacking the larger context, though.

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linguoboy
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Re: Pluralisation in distributive prediciates

Post by linguoboy »

Neon Fox wrote:
linguoboy wrote: "They wanted a picture, they wanted a handshake, they wanted to have a word."


Hmmm. I think part of it in this specific sentence may be that it's the indefinite, pseudo-singular "they". I could be wrong, lacking the larger context, though.

The American Spectator wrote:The other day, Trump took a stroll outside of his iconic Trump Tower with Fox and Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade. Not surprisingly there were everyday folk instantly swarming to Trump. They wanted a picture, they wanted a handshake, they wanted to have a word. At one point, standing on Fifth Avenue, Trump is flagged by the driver of a lumber truck. “I know you!” the driver says with a laugh and a grin.

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Re: Pluralisation in distributive prediciates

Post by Thry »

In Spanish (and as far as I can tell, Portuguese and Catalan, but not French*) possessives are very rare in these instances, when you refer to body parts. What is said is the part in general, and not yours concretely, so nothing is pluralized - but your intuition is right, because when an article isn't used and the person's concrete body part is meant, plural resurfaces.

Cierra la boca.
Fecha a bouca.
Tanca la boca.
Ferme ta gueule.

"Close your mouth"

But:

Cerrad la boca.
Fechem a bouca.
Tanqueu la boca.
Fermez vos gueules.

"Close your mouth[s]?"

Poned aquí la mano. (las manos is not wrong, but means both hands per person)
Place your hand here.
Pusieron allí sus manos derechas.
They placed their right hands there.

Nos hicieron perder el tiempo a las dos/a todos.
They wasted both/all of our times. (lit. They made us to lose time to the two [of us]/to everyone)

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