If I'm not mistaken, nouns (and nominals) are the only words that can inflect for grammatical number. E.g.: cat (Sg), cats (Pl); writing (Sg), writings (Pl).

"This" and "that" as singular demonstrative determiners have their plural counterparts, "these" and "those".

Are "these" and "those" actually inflected from "this" and "that" or are the two pairs different lexemes altogether?

If they were inflected, it would mean that this sort of inflection (or declension) is not exclusive to the part of speech 'noun'. If they were different lexemes, it would mean that the words have no relation in respect to grammatical number and inflection.

I am aware that there exist the demonstrative pronouns as well. The same question goes to this set of words too (pronouns and pronominals).

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    Um...what gave you the impression that only nominals inflect for number? Verbs inflect for number: "he is...' vs. "they are..". Adjectives and determiners inflect for number, e.g. in German "Ich sah einen grossen Hund" (i saw a.MASC.SG.ACC big.MASC.SG.ACC dog) vs. "Ich sah die grosse Hunde" (I saw the.PL.ACC big.PL.ACC dogs). Prepositions agree for number in, e.g. some Ps in Hungarian. I won't bother with any more examples, they're easy enough to find.
    – P Elliott
    Nov 20, 2013 at 13:24
  • I suspect what you meant is that number is only interpretable on nominals. Other categories can possess number inflection too, but number agreement is only 'interpreted' on a nominal, which is reasonably unsurprising if the semantic reflex of a plural feature is to say that the referent is a group with a cardinality > 1.
    – P Elliott
    Nov 20, 2013 at 13:26
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    I don't know why anyone would want to analyse these/those as seperate lexemes. They're clearly the plural forms of this/that semantically, and there's an obvious morphological relation between them.
    – P Elliott
    Nov 20, 2013 at 13:29

1 Answer 1


They are inflected. It wouldn't make any sense to treat them as separate lexemes. In many languages, they also inflect for gender and/or case. In some languages, even the deixis is considered an inflectional category, e.g. in Macedonian: kuka-va "this house" vs. kuka-na "that house".

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    While it is not necessary for the plurals to be treated as different lexemes -- because they don't pattern differently -- their irregularity does make it necessary for them to be learned separately, as if they were lexemes, and their frequency makes this a viable option, as it does for other irregular auxiliaries and pronouns. Many may continue to treat them as lexemes all their lives, never learning the tragic fact that they don't have a maximally efficiently inflected lexical demonstrative system.
    – jlawler
    Nov 20, 2013 at 18:35
  • In some languages you could even analyse them as inflecting for "distance" or something else. For instance in English only the vowel changes between proximal /i:/ and distal /ou/ and in Japanese there is a four-way paradigm between "k-" (proximal), "s-" (medial), "a-" (distal), and "d-" (interrogative) with demonstrative pronouns, adjectives, and locatives fitting other dimensions of the paradigm: "koko" (here), "kono" (this, adjective), "kore" (this, pronoun), etc. Nov 24, 2013 at 1:41

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