With regard to morphology a common example of a lexeme is [dog, dogs] where dogs is the plural inflexion of the lemma dog modified by the -s suffix, marking plurality.
Although I can accept that dog and dogs are, morphologically speaking, the same word i.e. the same lexeme, it still bothers me because each has a different meaning.
Semantically speaking, can we say dog and dogs are the same words? How does plurality relates to dog semantically:
- does dogs means multiple instances of a class dog?
- or does it mean the multiplicity of a same instance?
To illustrate the different possibilities here above:
"Suddenly several dogs, not one, were surrounding me."
"Suddenly several Benjamins, not one, were surrounding me."
In the second example, I used a proper name to emphasize the individuality of the instance, which is multiplied.
In the former case, if dog is understood as a class, then dogs could refer to multiple instances of that class as well as to multiple sub-classes of that same class. By the same logic, dog (singular) could mean a class or an instance of that class.
"The dog will always be man's best companion." (class)
"The dog entered my yard this morning." (instance)
Is the semantic distinction between class and instance here a shortcoming of the English language? Could a hypothetical language have distinct words for dog-class, dog-class-single-instance, dog-class-multiple-instances, etc.? Another example which may suggest the distinction in English would be fish:
"Tuna's a large fish",
"I breed several fishes"
What does plurality mean semantically and how does it reconcile with plurality in morphology?
- Could one say forest is the semantical plural of tree?
- How about words which have a plural that is morphologically entirely different from their singular (e.g. person, people)?
- How about words which take a different meaning with a plural inflexion (e.g. F. vacance [vacancy], vacances [holidays])?
Please provide examples in your answer.