Сategory of number of nouns (43440)

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Number is the grammatical category of the noun which shows whether we speak of one thing or of more than one. The category of number is expressed by the opposition of the plural form of the noun to its singular form.

Accordingly, there are two numbers: the singular and the plural.

The problem of category of number of nouns is very essential nowadays. Russian and English languages have different grammatical, syntactical and phonetic forms of expression. These languages have nouns which are used only in the singular, only in the plural and both in singular and plural. A lot of people in the process of communication make mistakes because they don’t know rules and laws necessary for exact case.

The goal of the present work is to study the category of number of English nouns and compare it with the Russian ones.

Objectives of the present work:

  1. To consider the category of number of nouns

  2. To study different types of number

  3. To analyze the formation and meaning of number

  4. To study different cases of usage of category of number of nouns

  5. To consider the development of plural forms in connection with a change of meaning of the noun

  6. To study Russian category of number of nouns, different cases of usage

Practical significance of this work is that it can be used in educational establishments, at classes on theoretical and practical grammar. This work can be useful for students, studying English language.

The term-paper consists of content, introduction, three main chapters, conclusion, bibliography and appendix.

  1. The Problem of Category of Number in Modern English

    1. The Category of Number of Nouns

The category of number is expressed by the opposition of the plural form of the noun to its singular form. The semantic difference of the oppositional members of the category of number in many linguistic works is treated traditionally: the meaning of the singular is interpretation as «one» and the meaning of the plural as «many» (more than one).

As the traditional interpretation of the singular and the plural members does not work in many cases, recently the categorical meaning of the plural has been reconsidered and now it is interpreted as the denotation of «the potentially dismembering reflection of the structure of the referent».

The categorical opposition of number is subjected to the process of oppositional reduction. Neutralization takes place when countable nouns begin to function as Singularia Tantum nouns, denoting in such cases either abstract ideas or some mass material, e.g. on my birthday we always have goose; or when countable nouns are used in the function of the Absolute Plural: the board are not unanimous on the question. A stylistically marked transposition is achieved by the use of the descriptive uncountable plural (the fruits of the toil are not always visible) and the «repetition plural» (car after car rushed past me). In Modern English the form of the singular of nouns is a bare stem without any flexion or with zero inflexion. Nouns in plural are characterized by ending «-s (-es)».

The meaning of number expresses by grammatical forms is extremely generalized. Concrete meanings of nouns can be expressed lexically with the help of numerals and grammatically through grammatical meaning of inflexions. A zero inflexion indicates one thing and the grammatical form with an opposite inflexion indicates more than one things.

The presence in language of such ways of expressing a generalized meaning of number must be considered as a result of a process of abstraction formed by the human thought for a long period of time. [1]

Modern English like most other languages distinguishes two numbers: singular and plural. The meaning of singular and plural seems to be self-explanatory, that is the opposition: one more than one. The essential meaning of the category (in nouns) is not that of quantity, but of discreteness. Concrete meanings of nouns can be expressed lexically with the help of numerals and grammatically through grammatical meaning of inflexions. A zero inflexion indicates one thing and the grammatical form with an opposite inflexion indicates more than one things.

1.2 Types of Number

a) Singular versus plural. In most languages with grammatical number, nouns, and sometimes other parts of speech, have two forms, the singular, for one instance of a concept, and the plural, for more than one instance. Usually, the singular is the unmarked form of a word, and the plural is obtained by inflecting the singular.

b) Collective versus singulative. Some languages differentiate between a basic form, the collective, which is indifferent in respect to number, and a more complicated derived form for single entities, the singulative. A rough example in English is «snowflake», which may be considered a singulative form of «snow» (although English has no productive process of forming singulative nouns, and no singulative modifiers).

c) Dual number. The distinction between a «singular» number (one) and a «plural» number (more than one) found in English is not the only possible classification. Another one is «singular» (one), «dual» (two) and «plural» (more than two). Dual number existed in Proto-Indo-European. Many more modern Indo-European languages show residual traces of the dual, as in the English distinctions both versus all and better versus best.

d) Trial number. The trial number is a grammatical number referring to 'three items', in contrast to 'singular' (one item), 'dual' (two items), and 'plural' (four or more items). There is a hierarchy between number categories: No language distinguishes a trial unless having a dual, and no language has dual without a plural. English, along with the other Germanic languages and most Romance languages, uses the plural.

e) Distributive plural. Distributive plural number, for many instances viewed as independent individuals (e.g. in Navajo).

In most languages, the singular is formally unmarked, whereas the plural is marked in some way. Other languages, most notably the Bantu languages, mark both the singular and the plural, for instance Swahili (see example above). The third logical possibility, rarely found in languages, is unmarked plural contrasting with marked singular.

Elements marking number may appear on nouns and pronouns in dependent-marking languages or on verbs and adjectives in head-marking languages.

There are several types of number: singular versus plural, collective versus singulativ, dual number, trial number and distributive plural. But Modern English like most other languages distinguishes only two numbers: singular and plural

    1. Meaning and Formation of Number

1. In Modern English the singular form of the nouns is a bare stem with a zero-inflexion (нулевая флексия): book, boy, girl.

The plural is formed by the inflexion – (e) s [z, s, iz]: boy boys, book books, box – boxes.

Compare the Russian noun стол (столы) which also has a zero-inflexion in the nominative case of the singular, with the noun река (реки), which has a positive inflexion in the nominative case of the singular as well as of the plural.

The inflexion – (e) s is a modification of the Old English plural inflexion – as. In Old English there were several ways of forming the plural; the – as inflexion which was used only with masculine nouns, later on in its modified form (-as>-es>-s) became the general inflexion of the plural of nouns.

The plural inflexion is pronounced [iz] after voiced consonants and vowels: cabs, raids, tables, pens, factories, tractors; [s] after voiceless consonants: books, pilots, pipes; [iz] after sibilants: classes, bushes, branches, boxes.

Note. – Nouns ending in a mute – e preceded by a sibilant, in spelling – se, ce, – ze, – (d) ge, add the inflexion – s [iz] horse – horses; price prices; size sizes; bridge bridges: village villages.

2. With some nouns the final voiceless consonant is changed into a corresponding voiced consonant before the inflexion – es [z] is added. To this group belong:

a) Nouns ending in – fe or – f [f]. The f is changed into v (consonant interchange), and the inflexion – es [z] is added: knifeknives; shelf – shelves; wife wives.

Note. – Some nouns ending in – f or – ff, simply add – s [s] in the plural: roof roofs; chief chiefs; handkerchief handkerchiefs; cliff cliffs; cuff – cuffs; muff muffs.

The following nouns have double forms: hoof hoofs, hooves; scarf scarfs, scarves.

b) Some nouns ending in – th [θ], change the θ into [3]: mouth [mauθ] – mouths [mauθz]; path [pa:θ] – paths [pa:θz]; bath [ba:θ] – baths [ba:3z].

c) The noun house [haus] – houses ['hauziz].

Peculiarities of Spelling. Notice the following:

  1. When a noun ends in – y preceded by a consonant is replaced by – i and the ending – es [iz] is added: city cities; country countries; penny pennies (when a sum of money and not separate coins is meant the plural form pence is used: It costs five pence. But: Five pennies were lying on the table).

  2. When a noun ends in – o with a preceding consonant, – es [z] is usually added: hero heroes; Negro–Negroes; potato potatoes; tomato tomatoes. But: piano pianos; photo photos; zero zeros.

  3. The plural of proper names and other parts of speech, figures, letters, etc. when substantivized, are sometimes written in the ordinary way, sometimes with an 's added:

The two Mary's or the two Marys (y remains unchanged). Mind your P's and Q's. Cross your t's and dot your i's. Don't use so many buts.

Oh, no, no, a thousand no's. [17]»… Mr. Copperfield objected to my threes and fives being too much alike each other, or to my putting curly tails to my sevens and ninesresumed my mother. [10]

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