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Referring to this question it seems that English does not have the equivalent of "both" for three items. Although it would seem to be a useful word, I am unaware of its existence in any languages. Is there any language that has such a word?

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    Both is just a suppletive term for *all two. Duals have irregular forms like suppletives more often than plurals, but less often than singulars.
    – jlawler
    Jun 15, 2012 at 2:26
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    But there is also a category of trial in some languages ... Jun 15, 2012 at 4:55
  • Yes, but it doesn't usually mean three; it's more a small group vs an unlimited plural. Usually it's called "paucal". And it's normally an inflection, not a suppletive quantifier.
    – jlawler
    Jun 15, 2012 at 14:57
  • Hmm. On the other hand, if there aren't languages with a paucal quantifier (meaning roughly "each member of this small group") then that's an interesting gap. Jun 15, 2012 at 21:01

7 Answers 7

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American Sign Language has this.

Valli, Clayton & Lucas, Ceil. 1995. Linguistics of American Sign Language: An Introduction. 2nd ed. Washington, DC: Gallaudet University Press. page 101

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  • Very interesting - but I can't find the reference in the book you pointed to? Jun 22, 2012 at 22:49
  • Top paragraph: "... referring to more than one person could also be signed using a number handshape, so that the pronoun could be glossed as TWO-OF-THEM, or THREE-OF-THEM, or ..." Or you could try here: belindavicars.com/grammar/numerical_pronouns.htm
    – Joe
    Jun 23, 2012 at 4:48
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It appears that Hindi has a generic form that accommodates any number at all.

Number Hindi word  Adj
2      do          donõ
3      teen        teenõ
4      chaar       chaarõ

However, as the numbers get bigger, it appears§ to be more idiomatic to switch to a form that's similar to English.

tum chaarõ ladke mere saath aaoo.
All four of you boys come with me.

tum saare chalis ladke mere saath aaoo.
All forty of you boys come with me.

§ — I speak the language fluently, but I'm not a native speaker.

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  • Are you sure it is nasal? Just asking, I am a native speaker, but never actually studied the language, so I am not sure. (Also, I know using the letter 'd' for the retroflex 'r' is a common convention, but it still confuses me.) May 23, 2021 at 6:26
  • @QuintusCaesius In writing, I have seen both तीनो / तीनों, both चरो / चरों, etc. Even dictionaries use both forms like here: collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/hindi-english/….
    – prash
    May 23, 2021 at 10:12
  • oh, because normally I don't nasalise that specific suffix when speaking. May 23, 2021 at 11:12
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Thai ทั้ง [tʰáŋ] is often used for this purpose. Also, กัน [gan] (one another), e.g. ต่อกัน [tò-gan] (mutually).

I guess, most (if not all) isolating languages would have such a word, and most likely it would be the same as "together", "also", or "one another".

Also, Hebrew has dual and triple inflection forms for certain nouns.

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    ทั้ง is used for exactly three items? Or for "two or more" items? Jun 15, 2012 at 4:57
  • "Two or more". To specify a certain number of objects, they say ทั้งสอง (all-two), ทั้งสาม (all-three), and so on - but almost never in colloquial speak. Jun 15, 2012 at 9:36
  • Ah so it's pretty much the same as in English then, rather than a special "trial" word akin to "both". )-: Jun 15, 2012 at 9:40
  • As for Hebrew, "both" is just "two of" (שני\שתי), and for three items you just say "three of" (שלושת\שלוש). Jun 22, 2012 at 12:33
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    No, Hebrew does not have a triple inflection form. The example given on the page that you link to shows that the triple form is the regular plural form, in contrast to the dual form which is unique.
    – dotancohen
    Jun 23, 2012 at 18:34
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When I was studying Generalized Quantifier Theory as part of a Formal Semantics class a few years ago in college, this came up. If I recall correctly, the professor said that there weren't any languages which had a quantifier that had an identical meaning to both, but for the number 3. I don't think there was any real backing up of that assertion.

Certainly there are no major languages that I know of that have this property.

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Yes. In Georgian (ქართული) language the word "both" is derived from the word "two" and you can do the same for all numbers, as well as for three.

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In Pashto, درې واړه [ˈd̪reˑ.wɑ̟̈ɳə] exactly means ‘both for three items’. (It can be used for both humans and inanimate objects.)

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The common form in Spanish is los dos. (Ambos is a bit formal.)

You can just as easily say los tres.

And there are many sayings, songs, soap operas and even hotel names with felices los quatro.

Mily Jaramillo - Felices los cuatro (Video Oficial)

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  • Looks like a parallel to the English phrasing "the two", not "both". Mar 20, 2021 at 19:40
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    @OmarL Looks can be deceiving. The English phrase the two is not and cannot be used in the way that los dos most commonly is. Mar 20, 2021 at 22:09
  • As the first comment under the question states, the most equivalent English phrase is all two. Mar 20, 2021 at 22:11

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