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USAGE: THEORY/USAGE: irregular English plurals (was: RE: [CONLANG]

From:John Cowan <jcowan@...>
Date:Tuesday, May 21, 2002, 1:08
And Rosta scripsit:

> Of these, the f/v alternants are like verbs with monosyllabic -in(g) > stems, in that the irregular pattern is statistically and perhaps > cognitively dominant.
Actually not. I found about 60 -f:-fs regular plurals, plus a few borderline ones: roof:rooves, sheaf:sheaves. Of course JRRT created dwarf:dwarves, and his epigoni have given us the adjective dwarven by analogy with elven. (Tolkien uses Dwarvish.)
> As for animals, the bare plurals are arguably regular, due to a > productive rule saying that nouns denoting animals of a certain type > (huntable?) take bare plurals; certainly the list is open-ended, a > telltale sign of productivity.
I think the criterion is herdable (or self-herding) rather than huntable, but foxes are huntable, and goats herdable, so I think we have an irregular survival rather than any sort of rule. I cannot think of any modernly discovered animal which has a zero plural.
> _oxen_ is obsolescent, being replaced by _oxes_,
Really? I would think that the pl. would be preserved among those who speak of oxen at all. A few new plurals have been added to the ancient n-declension, such as Vaxen, (Unix) boxen, and Macintoshen.
> which leaves just man:men, woman:women, foot:feet, goose:geese, > tooth:teeth, mouse:mice, child:children, and, arguably, person:people, > as the utter irregulars among the indigenes...
Yes, I think person:people belongs here, although we also have person:persons and people:peoples in different senses.
> So the near-blank Kendra drew was not far off the mark...
Indeed. -- John Cowan <jcowan@...> I amar prestar aen, han mathon ne nen, han mathon ne chae, a han noston ne 'wilith. --Galadriel, _LOTR:FOTR_


Philip Newton <philip.newton@...>
Muke Tever <alrivera@...>
Raymond Brown <ray.brown@...>