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Re: crazy Celtic collective nouns

From:Eric Christopherson <rakko@...>
Date:Thursday, May 24, 2001, 4:20
On Wed, May 23, 2001 at 10:54:35PM +0000, kam@CARROT.CLARA.NET wrote:
> On Wed, May 23, 2001 at 12:27:36AM -0400, R. Eamon Graham wrote: > > Okay the third thing concerns collective nouns, namely, the Celtic > > trait of forming the singular of a collective noun from the plural > > (which often times looks like a singular rather than a plural) > > rather than the other way around... I read something about this > > when I was like 12 and I was as confused about it then as I am now, > > and something said about a Brithenig word reminded me of it:
> > Is this phenomenon found in other languages? > > I think Arabic does something similar.
Yes, there were at least a few words in Proto-Semitic that were like that, with descendent forms surviving in at least some Semitic languages. Unfortunately I don't know much about Semitic linguistics at all, but I do remember that there was a word meaning "swarm of bees," with the noun "bee" being derived from it via a feminine suffix. The funny thing is, the feminine suffix (-at) was very similar to one plural suffix (-a:t), so it almost looked as if "bee" were the plural of "swarm of bees." There were some other words like that too, that I don't recall specifically offhand. I really like this idea, and will be sure to make use of it in my current project, Dhakrathat (tentative name). Quite a while ago, I made up my mind to use singular collective nouns for the names of tribes, clans, families, etc.; the word for a single person of such a group would be derived from the collective. So: */Dak_>ra/ - The Dhakra people (those who speak Dhakrathat) */Dak_>ra? akka:/ - A single Dhakra (lit. "person of the Dhakra") */Dak_>ra? akka:t/ - Dhakra persons (probably just certain ones, as opposed to the whole population) */nasTa/ - The Nastha family */nasTa? akka:/ - A Nastha; a member of the Nastha family */nasTa? ranaksja/ - Ranaksja of the Nastha family; "Ranaksja Nastha" in European nomenclature These forms are very tentative. Actually, they're pretty much guaranteed to end up different; I have good ideas of the roots involved, but the morphology is kind of ad-hoc. -- Eric Christopherson / *Aiworegs Ghristobhorosyo