More Plural Categories?

Philippe Verdy verdy_p at
Mon Apr 21 05:21:56 CDT 2014

This is not a question for determining the plural form, it's completely
orthogoanl and is a phonologic mutation that can apply to lots of words
pairs; someti,es (not always) extended to the orthography. The rules are
extremely complex but do not depend on plurals, for example:

* In English you have "an egg" vs. "a chicken" (before a noun starting by a
vowel), "a year" or "a yellow car" ("y" starting a noun or adjectifve is
considered a consonnant here)

* In French the mutation of the nasal to a denasalizied vowel+/n/
consonnant in "un enfant" occurs before a vowel (or a mure "h") starting
the next noun or adjective but does not influence the orthography  there
are cases of mutations by elision of a final mute "e" replaced by an
apostrophe (also in Italian) before a noun or adjective or verb starting by
vowel or mute "h") but there are exceptions ("un enfant de onze ans" and
usually not "d'onze ans", but "un enfant d'un an" and usually not "un
enfant de un an").

* many examples in many languages much more complex that English or French

Such phonologuical and sometimes orthographic/grammatical mutations are not
suitable for inclusion in plural rules, they do not depend (only) on the
value of numbers when they are present.

2014-04-21 11:23 GMT+02:00 Richard Wordingham <
richard.wordingham at>:

> I fear I've seen found a need for more plural categories.  I was
> running my own English language data exploration program and came across
> the following grammatical error in my output:
> '... is a 11-element table.'
> This fragment should, of course, have been
> '... is an 11-element table.'
> I'd not noticed this issue before; perhaps I'd been sensitised by
> pondering the production of the Latin locale.
> Does the 'others' category need to have a category extracted for
> numbers that start with vowels?  These numbers would be something like
> <pluralRule count="few">i in 11, 18, 80..89, 800..899,
> 1100..1199, 1800..1899, 8000..8999, 11000..11999, 18000..18999,
> 80000..89999, 800000..899999</pluralRule>
> I don't see a nice way of carrying it on beyond a million.  There may
> well be national variation in the validity of the 1100..1199 and
> 1800..1899 ranges.
> This complication will extend to quite a few languages.
> Are negative numbers supposed to be supported?  Negative numbers belong
> to the 'other' category in English, but CLDR seems to put -1 in the
> 'one' category for English.  There seems to be a subtle dependency on
> whether the word 'minus' denotes a relative value or an absolute value.
> The Welsh numbers are complicated enough for natural numbers.  They
> deviate from taking the unmutated singular noun as follows:
> zero: plural form for nouns
> one: Soft mutation for feminine nouns
> two: Soft mutation for all nouns
> few (i.e. 3): Spirant mutation for masculine nouns
> many (i.e. 6): Spirant mutation for all nouns
> other: No mutation
> However, it is not quite as simple as that, even ignoring the argument
> that Welsh ought to be localised.  The complication arises with the
> numerative forms of _blwyddyn_ 'year', namely _blynedd_ 'years' and
> _blwydd_ 'years old'. While in general they unusually take the nasal
> mutation for 'other' (yielding _mlynedd_ and _mlwydd_), the standard
> form for '4 years' is 'pedair blynedd', with no mutation!  'Pedair
> blwydd' is the standard form for '4 years old', though 'pedair mlwydd'
> is quite common.  This makes a seventh category, for '4', but only
> significant with _blynedd_ and, less so, _blwydd_, and archaic diction
> with _diwrnod_ 'day'.
> Welsh may precede numbers by the definite article as English does, so
> there is variation between _y_ and _yr_ depending on whether the
> following number starts with a vowel or not.  This splits 'other' much
> as in English, with the complication that Welsh has both vigesimal and
> decimal systems - see for a
> quick summary.  The RBNF rules have gone for the decimal system.
> Apparently the choice between the two systems is affected by what is
> being counted.
> Possibly the words for 'year' should be special-cased - it seems to
> have exceptional usage with numbers in several languages.  For example,
> in Thai, the ages of childen should be expressed using ขวบ (tr. 'khuap')
> instead of ปี (tr. 'pi') as the word for 'year'.
> Talking of Thai, although usage seems quite variable, there is a rule
> that the number for 'one' should follow the classifier rather than
> precede it like other numbers.   Does this justify Thai having a
> separate category 'one'?  (At present, it just has  the sole
> category 'other'.)  Possibly this is covered by the advice to consider
> special-casing 0 and 1 anyway. There are several cases in Thai where
> the numeral '1' normally disappears in speech, e.g. times of the day.
> I am also wondering if the existence of what are translated as plural
> forms of the demonstrative adjectives calls for a separate category
> 'one' in Thai.  Possibly one can just avoid using these plural forms
> when the number of items (one v. more than one) is not known beforehand.
> Richard.
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