More Plural Categories?

Richard Wordingham richard.wordingham at
Mon Apr 21 08:27:49 CDT 2014

On Mon, 21 Apr 2014 12:21:56 +0200
Philippe Verdy <verdy_p at> wrote:

> 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.

What do you think the origin of the Welsh categories is? The
distinction between the Welsh categories two/few/many/other is in origin
a phonological distinction, as is most of the distinction in numeric
forms between 'one' and the others.  For 'one' v. the other four,
there are also the effects of the singular v. plural distinction, for
example on accompanying demonstratives and referring pronouns. 

> 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)

The idea is that a program slotting these words into a frame would
select a set of associated forms to be placed in the various
positions.  For English, the set would be at least the noun and
the indefinite article.  With numbers, there is the potential problem
that the number of such sets is unbounded.  The concept of the plural
categories is that the number then selects one of no more than say six

For example, the general form of a question may be, 'You have
selected 6 files; delete them?'.  Based on the number, one has to
select in English not only between between 'files' and 'file' but also
'them' and 'it'.  In some languages, there might be a 3-way choice of
pronouns, and in some languages the value of the number may affect the
various verbs.

> * In French ... "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"...

Should not this be captured by CLDR?

> 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.

One can select the form from the number.  The only question is whether
it would be better to apply a phonological rule to the composed form.
If that were the decision, then CLDR ought to contain the
transformation.  However, in your example, it does not just involve a
simple phonological rule; there is the difficult decision of whether to
apply it.

Now, spelt out numbers in Sanskrit might be a good case for the
mechanical application of sandhi.


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