Some linguistic declension forms are found in many languages:

  • Gender
  • Singular / Plural
  • Past, Present, Future
  • Indication, Condition, Imperation
  • Case: Nominative, Accusative, Dative etc.

Is there a more or less established set of graphic icons for these forms?

For Gender and Number it's quite easy:

  • Gender: ♀ and ♂
  • Singular and Plural: 👤 and 👥

However, for time, mode and case, it gets quite difficult to come up with something that a majority of people might understand. That's why I'm looking for an established set of icons. If there is not any, perhaps there is a well-known book like a thesaurus that uses such a set of icons?

  • 4
    What about three-gender languages?
    – fdb
    Sep 6, 2021 at 12:40
  • @fdb yes. Would love to see a symbol for the third gender. Sep 7, 2021 at 7:20
  • 1
    And what about languages with dual number, in addition to plural?
    – theberzi
    Sep 7, 2021 at 7:46
  • 1
    @theberzi yes, what about them. Answers are welcome. Sep 7, 2021 at 8:52
  • 1
    I think your question has already been answered: if you're looking for something formally/conventionally used by people of the field, there is nothing but textual abbreviations: linguistics has many, many concepts to describe and some are very abstract. Icons could be obvious for some, but very confusing for others, and many icons that may seem obvious to us might not be so for other cultures.
    – theberzi
    Sep 7, 2021 at 9:01

2 Answers 2


As jk mentioned, linguists tend to use abbreviations rather than graphics for this. One standardized list is found in the appendix of the Leipzig glossing rules, which gives SG, DU, PL, etc for numbers, PST, PRS, FUT, etc for tenses, and so on.

These standards are often extended for individual languages, since it's extremely difficult to come up with a standard that covers all languages' genders, cases, and so on. In Bantu, for example, it's common to mark gender/class as C1, C2, C3, etc; in Sumerian, the unusual cases get new abbreviations like EQU for the equative ("this thing is like this other thing"); in Egyptian, nobody can agree on names for the tense-aspect combinations and different authors tend to make up their own abbreviations. But the standard is a good starting point, and the abbreviations on there will generally be quickly recognized (or easy to look up if they're not).

  • +1, thanks for the answer. I'm leaving the question open since I hope for an answer with a reference to a website / app / book which does use a set of icons. Sep 7, 2021 at 8:56

No. In fact, there aren't any graphics used for that purpose. Among linguists, abbreviations are used all over the place, and under Universal Features you can find a representative set of abbreviations for common categories on different parts of speech.

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