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 '12 at 2:26
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    But there is also a category of trial in some languages ... – hippietrail Jun 15 '12 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 '12 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. – Leah Velleman Jun 15 '12 at 21:01

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? – hippietrail Jun 15 '12 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. – bytebuster Jun 15 '12 at 9:36
  • Ah so it's pretty much the same as in English then, rather than a special "trial" word akin to "both". )-: – hippietrail Jun 15 '12 at 9:40
  • As for Hebrew, "both" is just "two of" (שני\שתי), and for three items you just say "three of" (שלושת\שלוש). – Daniel Hershcovich Jun 22 '12 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 '12 at 18:34

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.


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

  • Very interesting - but I can't find the reference in the book you pointed to? – user2398029 Jun 22 '12 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 '12 at 4:48

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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