33

First, though you probably already know this, not all languages have different forms for singular and plural nouns. Some don't mark number at all, while others have more fine-grained distinctions, using different forms for "one thing" versus "two things" versus "more than two things", or "a small number" versus "a large number". Many languages also mark ...


28

English marks plurality in first and third person pronouns (I vs. we, he/she/it vs. they), but not in the second person (you). (The singular thou did exist in English in the past, but is now considered obsolete.) According to WALS chapter 35 (paragraph 5.1), about 20% of languages distinguish plurality in either first person or second person but not both. ...


12

Some varieties of English have plural personal pronouns that are composed in roughly the way you're asking. Southern US English you'all/ y'all is composed of the 2nd p. singular pronoun + plural marker all. Because there is now a separate 2nd p. plural pronoun you tends to be restricted to singular reference. I understand the other comments as saying that ...


12

As already said, Japanese works this way: 私 + 達 = we watashi tachi But the same happens in Chinese as well: 我 + 们 = we wo men The first portion of both is the standard way to say "I" (we'll ignore other versions for the sake of this answer). The second is a plural marker.


11

Although largely archaic, in some locations (some parts of Northern England/Cornwall/Ireland, among others) the word "ye" is still used as second-person-plural. It can also be found in some older works, such as the King James Bible: "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your ...


10

yous This regional term is predominantly used in Scotland and Ireland and throughout Australia, as well as overseas areas of previous Irish emigration e.g. some parts of the US (Boston, MA and Philadelphia, PA) and northern Nova Scotia and Lanark Ontario/Canada and South Auckland, New Zealand. It also occurs in Scouse (usually spelled "yous" as ...


9

The basic answer is "because there are". Languages work the way languages work: we can explain how something has come about in a language, but why questions are nearly always unanswerable. Your question is about two different things: the kinds of grammatical distinction made in a language (such as plural, or objective case) and the mechanism by which these ...


8

Lots of confusion here. Hebrew Elohim is morphologically plural but syntactically singular: it governs a verb in the 3rd person singular. Adonai is likewise syntactically singular. Dios is from Latin deus. It is singular. "Some languages" boils down to at most one language (Hebrew).


8

Edit: I had almost forgotten about the existence of WALS. Chapter 35 gives an overview of plurality in independent personal pronouns: Chapter Plurality in Independent Personal Pronouns. It looks like the category most relevant to your question is type 8 (person stem with a nominal plural affix). If you look at the map on WALS, you can see 19 type 8 ...


7

I'm surprised nobody mentioned the concept of grammaticalization in this context. Asking why in linguistics is almost never a good question. But grammaticalization can certainly help explain how. (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grammaticalization). The process through which words become morphemes is described as the following cline: content word → ...


7

One of these languages is Thai, except it's not a suffix, but a prefix: คุณ [kʰun] you (singular, formal) - พวกคุณ [pʰûːək kʰun] you all (plural, formal) เธอ [tʰɤː] you (singular, informal) - พวกเธอ [pʰûːək tʰɤː] you all (plural, informal) เขา [kʰáu] he/she - พวกเขา [pʰûːək kʰáu] they Note, this does not apply 1st person: ผม versus เรา or พวกเรา


7

Indeed! The most common form of this involves having a dual number, used for exactly two things, and a plural number, used for any more than that. You'll find this in older Indo-European languages and modern Inuit and Semitic languages. Arabic: kitaab "book", kitaabayn "[two] books", kutub "[more than two] books" (Biblical) Hebrew: yōm "day", yomayim "[two]...


7

Wikipedia has a good summary of the T-V distinction & the various strategies used across different languages. The singular-plural distinction is just one strategy, and not the most common one. The idea is to emphasize a distinction or distance between speaker & listener. For example, a person with more social power may be addressed in the plural,...


6

Another language that does this is Nhanda, a Pama-Nyungan language of Western Australia. Nhanda has a productive plural suffix '-nu', which is used to form plurals of both nouns and pronouns, as follows (only showing subject forms): ngayi = 1sg 'I' - ngayinu = 1pl 'we' ngini = 2sg 'you.sg' - ngininu = 2pl 'you.pl' ala = 3sg 'he/she/it'; alanu = 3pl 'they' ...


6

In Persian (a.k.a. Farsi) pronouns are built with suffixes: man => me, maha => we shoma => you (formal), shomaha => you all (plural formal) an => he/she/it, anha => they


6

The deletion of certain <e o> and all <ъ> in Bulgarian is an effect of Havlík's law, and the forms /bantsik::bantsigi/ and /izverk::izvergi/ are demonstrative of Bulgarian's word-final devoicing; all Bulgarian obstruents lose voicing word-finally and the underlying forms are actually |bantsig::bantsigi| and |izverg::izvergi| Other than that, the ...


6

Since there are more languages with dedicated plural forms than there are with dedicated dual forms, this phenomenon is probably more common with plurals. I'm more familiar with constructions like Japanese "-tachi" being called "associative" plurals: there is a WALS chapter about this grammatical feature ("The Associative Plural", by Michael Daniel and Edith ...


6

According to The Paradigmatic Structure of Person Marking by Michael Cysouw, the absence of the 2PL form in English pronoun despite having 3PL form is extremely unusual. The only language that has the exact five-way system of 1SG 1PL 2 3SG 3PL paradigm is the Xokleng language in the Amazonian basin. On the other hand, there is Berik paradigm (1SG 1PL 2 3) ...


6

It is worth mentioning the fact that there seems to be some correlation between the numbers which languages may mark, and the numbers which human brains can treat differently. We can subitise small numbers, 1 to approx. 5, and so far as we've observed, languages are completely unable to mark for any number outside this range. This suggests that the ...


6

In general, gender is an inherent property of a lexeme, while number is something that can easily be changed. For example, Latin mensae "tables (plural)" is a perfectly normal inflection of mensa "table", but *mensus "table (masculine)" is very weird. Now, this line is sometimes blurred—gender and number interact in interesting ...


5

Virtually all IE languages have masculine and feminine nominative plural forms with endings that can be derived from *-es. For example Latin patres. These are plural, not dual.


5

Hungarian ő = he/she (genderless) ők = they (also genderless) Note that in Hungarian, the suffix -k is generally used for plural for all words, not just in this case. The basic case has only the third person obeying this rule, the other two are exceptions. However, in other cases, most (or all, I didn't really count) obey this rule, with minor ...


4

You don't need to go around the world to find examples. In Portuguese and French, all plural personal pronouns end in "s". Check below: English French Portuguese I je eu you tu tu he il ele she elle ela it - - we nous nós you vous vós ...


4

Quechua has completely regular plural second- and third-person pronouns: 1sg: ñoqa 2sg: qam 3sg: pay 1pl excl.: ñoqayku 1pl incl.: ñoqanchik 2pl: qamkuna 3pl: paykuna cf.: “man”: runa “men”: runakuna “woman”: warmi “women”: warmikuna The plural suffix -kuna is not mandatory if context suffices.


4

I can't speak for reduplication, but Tanoan languages of the central US have a system whereby some nouns have bare singulars and marked plurals, while others have bare plurals and marked singulars. The distinction usually falls along lines of animacy, although exceptions abound. Perhaps this is a system (or the remnant of one) along the same lines? (Note:...


4

As the other answers have pointed out, "natural" is not a category that is used in linguistics. However, there is a cross-linguistic tendency for plurals to be formed by the addition of a morpheme to the singular - i.e. plurals tend to be longer than singulars. Apart from that, as a Czech speaker you might find some plural forms in other Indo-European ...


4

Your question seems to assume that languages are the way they are because of conscious design by speakers. This isn't true -- speakers don't have the option to "make [the language] simpler" or "make it easier for learning". Sure, it's true that getting rid of irregular inflections like am-are-is would make English easier to learn, but no one's in a position ...


3

Plural formation in Bulgarian depends on whether the noun is masculine, feminine or neuter. On top of that, it also depends if the noun is monosyllabic or polysyllabic. Masculine nouns Monosyllabic: in most cases, use ~ove at the end of the word (e.g. stol - stolove - chair). Nevertheless, some masculine monosyllabic nouns have their own plural form and do ...


3

That's just some misconception. The arbitrariness of sound-meaning correspondence is one of the most uncontroversial things in linguistics. There isn't anything 'natural' about the form in the language, these are purely formal aspects of sound and its mapping to meaning. Nor is there anything universal about the (phonological) form of inflectional ...


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