Some singular plurals (was: Creating conlang grammars using prototypes)
|From:||R A Brown <ray@...>|
|Date:||Friday, October 6, 2006, 8:09|
> R A Brown wrote:[snip]
>>True - which is why I say "octopuses" as that what
>>others generally say in this neck of the woods.
>>FWIW, my dictionary gives as plural:
>>*octopuses*, (_arch._) *octopodes* (*octopi* is wrong)
> Octopuses and Octopi are both rather common in
> the United States. In fact this is the first time that I've
> heard Octopi to be wrong. FWIW, the American
> Heritage College Dictionary, Third Edition 1993, gives
> octopus n., pl. -puses or -pi. [NLat. octopus < Gk.
> oktopous, eight-footed]
The dictionaries are clearly reflecting the situation in the respective
I note the etymology given is _NLat._, presumably 'New Latin'. The word
is indeed not attested in Classical Latin. If the word had been a
learned borrowing in classical period from Greek it would undoubtedly
have been _octopus_ /okto:pu:s/ with plural _octpodes_ /okto:podes/ [sic
- with short _e_], following the Greek pattern.
There is in Classical Latin, it is true, _polypus_ with short _u_ which
follows the 2nd declension and, therefore, has plural _polypi_ (it seems
to refer indifferently to octopuses & cuttlefish). But although this is
clearly connected with Classical Greek _polypous_ (many-footed), it is
an early colloquial borrowing from the Doric Greek of southern Italy
where the word was _polupos_.
The actual spelling in Latin with _y_ is due, obviously, to Greek
influence; it would have been some sort of schwa sound. The modern
Italian, Spanish & Portuguese words for 'octopus' (polpo, pulpo, polvo)
indicate the common pronunciation was *polpus.
But these Latinate plurals (whether etymologically justified or not)
seem to get varying pronunciations in the spoken language. When I was a
youngster 'fungi', when used, was ['fVndZaj], but most people then said
'funguses' or 'toadstools' :)
But now practically everyman and his dog says 'fungi', but they don't
all say it the same way. I hear ['fVndZaj] (not so often now), ['fVNgaj]
(second most common), ['fVNgi] (the most common] and ['fVndZi] (probably
least common). None, of course, like Latin, whether Classical ['fUNgi:]
or ecclesiastical ['fundZi] :)
But heck - what's wrong with the 'funguses' of my youth?
David J. Peterson wrote:
> Ray Brown wrote:
> (I assume people who say 'octopi' don't all say 'bi' as the plural of
> 'bus' :)
> Uh...they don't? What else would they say? Is there another
> plural for "bus" I'm not aware of...?
'Bus' is monosyllabic. Everyone knows monosyllabic words have umlauted
plurals, don't they? :)
man ~ men
goose ~ geese
tooth ~ teeth
mouse ~ mice
house ~ hice
moth ~ myth
bus ~ bys
Nid rhy hen neb i ddysgu.
There's none too old to learn.