(12) Nouns and their Number.
(Productive and Less Productive Types of Plural Formation; Foreign Plurals, Plurals in Compound Nouns; Singularia Tantum, Pluralia Tantum; Semantic Functions of Number).
(12.1) Number as a Grammatical Category
- a semantically-grammatical category
- (a) singular = indicates one object or an indivisible whole (snow)
- (b) plural = indicated more than one object
- dual = non-productive in both CZ and E
- E: only a lexical manifestation of dual (dual: both, either, neither, each other x plural: all, any, none, one another)
- CZ: also some remains of grammatical dual (oči, uši, ruce)
- only the plural form => collective meaning (belongings) or composite objects (scissors)
- singularia tantum
- pluralia tantum
(12.2) Productive Plural Formation: The Ending –(e)s
(1) pronounced as [s] after voiceless consonants
(2) pronounced as [z] after voiced consonants and vowels
(3) pronounced as [iz] after [s, z, ∫, 3, t∫, d3]
(1) spelled as "s" when pronounced [s, z]
(2) spelled as "es" when pronounced [iz]
- also spelled as "es" in some nouns with word-final -o (potato-es, tomato-es, hero-es)
- x spelled as "s" in nouns with word-final -o preceded by another vowel (kangaroo-s, radio-s, studio-s)
- x also spelled as "s" in nouns of Italian origin and in nouns formed by clipping (solo-s, soprano-s, concerto-s; photo-s, kilo-s, piano-s)
- word-final -y changes into -i
(12.3) Non-productive Plural Formation
(12.3.1) Phonemic/Morphemic Alternation
(1) phonemic alternation in some nouns: the voiceless fricatives [s, θ, f] > the voiced [z, ð, v]
- [s] > [z]: only in house [haus] > houses [hauziz]
- [θ] > [ð]: after a long vowel (bath [ba:θ] > baths [ba:ðz], mouth, path, etc.)
- [f] > [v]: only in calf > calves, elf, half, knife, leaf, life, loaf, self, sheaf, shelf, thief, wife, wolf [note: accompanied by an alternation in spelling]
(2) morphemic alternation in some nouns
- an alternation of the root vowel only in man [mæn] > men [men], woman > women, foot > feet, tooth > teeth, goose > geese, mouse > mice, louse > lice
- the plural ending –en: only in ox > oxen; child > children [note: accompanied by an additional "r" and the alternation of the root vowel]; brother > brothers/brethren [note: accompanied by a change of meaning]
- null plural ending (x agreement with the verb form for plural):
(a) some domestic animals and game animals: sheep, salmon, trout, deer, duck, etc.
(b) names of nations ending in –ese: Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, etc.
(c) some names for amount or measure when after a numeral (several hundred people x hundreds of people): dozen, hundred, thousand, million, ton, etc.
(d) measure phrases in an attributive position: a three-mile walk, a two-hour drive, a ten-minute break, etc.
(e) some other nouns: counsel, offspring, means, etc.
(12.3.2) Foreign Plurals
- with nouns of foreign origin
- often co-exist with the domestic plural: the foreign plural restricted to scientific use
(1) Latin plurals
- with no domestic alternative: stimulus > stimuli, minimum > minima, stratum > strata, etc.
- with a domestic alternative: formula > formulae, formulas; focus > foci, focuses; aquarium > aquaria, aquariums, etc.
(2) Greek plurals: analysis > analyses, crises > crises, hypothesis > hypotheses, etc.
(3) French plurals with nouns ending in –s or –x, homographs x not homophones: corps [ko:] > [co:z], faux pas [f∂u pa:] > [f∂u pa:z], rendezvous [rondivu:] > [rondivu:z]
(12.3.3) Plurals in Compound Nouns
(1) compounds without any noun component: the regular plural ending –s added to the last component (forget-me-nots, merry-go-rounds, take-offs)
(2) compounds with a noun as a head: the ending –s added to the head regardless of its position in the compound (passers-by, sons-in-law, coats-of-arms)
(3) compounds with two nouns in an appositive position: –s added only to the last component (boy friends, lady-singers, Lord Mayors)
(4) compounds incl. man or woman in an appositive position: plural formed in both nouns (manservant > menservants, woman driver > women drivers)
(12.3.4) Suppletive Plurals
- only in Sir > Gentlemen, Madam > ladies, Mr X > Messrs X
(12.4) Semantic Functions of Number
- the basic semantic function of PL: to differentiate btw one x more countable elements
(12.4.1) Singular Form – Plural Meaning
(1) collective nouns to denote a group of people
(a) to denote a group of individuals (family, firm, company, crew)
(b) to denote a class of people as a whole (bourgeoisie, clergy, elite, intelligentsia)
- most collectives form PL x but: some of them only in SG (cattle, police, vermin)
- agreement: either semantic (i.e. PL) or grammatical (i.e. SG), both possible
(2) collective nouns to denote a group of objects (china, pottery, jewellery)
- agreement: only grammatical, i.e. SG noun > SG verb
- E: a restricted group of words
- CZ: a larger group of words with special forms: kámen – kameny – kamení, list – listy – listí
(12.4.2) Plural Form – Singular Meaning
(1) plural forms to denote a composite object (scissors, binoculars, trousers; stairs, ashes, embers; vegetables, goods, clothes)
- mostly pluralia tantum => grammatical agreement with PL verb
(2) plural forms of uncountable nouns to denote a large area/amount (sands, frosts, waters)
(12.4.3) Plural Form – More Meanings
- some nouns form PL with additional meaning(s) besides that of the SG noun form
- colours [prapor], glasses [brýle], irons [pouta], customs [clo], effects [movitý majetek], manners [zvyky], pains [úsilí], honours [vyznamenání], pictures [kino], spirits [alkohol, nálada], hairs [chlupy], etc.
(12.4.4) Neutralisation of the Plural versus Singular Contrast
- in general statements PL x SG can be used with the same meaning (A girl matures earlier than a boy. = Girls mature earlier than boys.)
(12.5) Singularia/Pluralia Tantum
(12.5.1) Singularia Tantum
- have only the SG form, agree with the SG verb
- mostly uncountable nouns, both concrete and abstract
- names of materials: bread, wool, smoke, etc.
- abstract nouns: honesty, decay, darkness, etc.
- proper names: Henry, Australia, the Thames, etc.
- converted adjectives denoting abstract characteristics: the obscure, etc.
- names of games: billiards, darts, bowls, etc.
- names of sciences: acoustics, etc.
- idiosyncratic items: news, Brussels, Wales, etc.
(12.5.2) Pluralia Tantum
- have only the PL form, agree with the PL verb
- mostly uncountable nouns
- clothes: pyjamas, trousers, jeans, etc.
- instruments: scissors, scales, spectacles, etc.
- diseases and feelings: measles, shivers, etc.
- applied sciences: physics, linguistics, economics, etc.
- converted adjectives denoting a group of people: the homeless, the sick, the poor, etc.
- idiosyncratic items: annals, contents, belongings, archives, earnings, goods, etc.
- some geographical names: the Netherlands, the East Indies, the Hebrides, etc.
Dušková, Libuše, et al. Mluvnice současné angličtiny na pozadí češtiny. Praha: Academia, 2003.
Svoboda, Aleš, and Mária Opělová Károlyová. A Brief Survey of the English Morphology. Ostrava: Ostravská univerzita, 1993.
Veselovská, Ludmila. Přednášky a semináře: Morfologie 2. ZS 2003/04.