Different languages have different grammatical numbers. For most IE languages, these are Singular, Plural and, sometimes, Dual.

Other languages have grammatical numbers differentiated by the quantity of 'items' (from Dual to Trial, e.g. in Bislama, and Quadral, as in Sursurunga). Many Austronesian languages have paucal number depending on quantity of 'items' counted (up to 27).

Other languages (including samples of extinct Sumerian) have two more types of grammatical number not defined by the quantity of items, namely, Collective (as opposed to Singulative) and Distributive (as in Navajo or in Finnish 'kuukausittain' = 'by [separate groups of] months', 'parvittain' = by [separate quantities of] animal groups, 'kerroittain' = 'by [separate groups of] times [of events]', etc.

Sumerian, according to Kaneva (2006 in Russian only) also had a 'Sortive' type of grammatical number.

In ancient Tocharian languages (at least in Western Tocharian), there had been a Dual and a Pair Grammatical numbers; the former was applyed for random pair combinations, and the latter, for natural and inseparable ones (like 'eyes', 'nostrils', etc.).

In Basque, there is also a type of 'Indeterminate' (literally, 'Infinite') grammatical number ('mugagabea'), or verb aspct.

Are there any other types of grammatical numbers in other languages?

  • 1
    I can't fix this with an edit, but there's a typo in your question: kukausittain should be kuukausittain.
    – TKR
    Commented Nov 28, 2013 at 18:30

2 Answers 2



is sometimes used for the form in some systems that are neutral to the other distinctions

eg. Basque


  • etxe : house - transnumeral
  • etxea : (a) house - singular
  • etxeak : houses - plural

Leza & Skopeteas (2004). Numerus IN Booij et al Morphologie/Morphology Vol2, p 1054

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    Is "transnumeral" a synonym for "neutral" when it comes to grammatical numbers? Commented Nov 30, 2013 at 3:32
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    @JamesGrossmann It's a form neutral to number, yes. Transnumeral is from Leza & Skopeteas. Corbett 2000 Number calls it 'General number' Commented Nov 30, 2013 at 23:42

I am not sure whether that answer your question, but English and French also have the "partitive" meaning some indeterminate quantity of something.

French: du pain, de la salade, de l'argent, des épinards

English: bread, some bread ...

It shares its written form with the singular or plural, but is really neither.

  • Partitive is a state of 'case noun' which is not exactly a number. In Germanic and Romance languages it deals whith 'countability'/'incountability' and represents 'a part of uncountable'. In other languages (Russian. Finnish, Estonian and Basque) it may be represented with a separate case or pseudocase. But thanks anyay.
    – Manjusri
    Commented Dec 1, 2013 at 18:28

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