The Category of Number of English Nouns — страница 5

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‘Joy’ and ‘a joy’, ‘beauty’ and ‘a beauty’, ‘copper’ and ‘a copper’, ‘hair’ and ‘a hair’ and many other pairs of this kind are not homonyms, as suggested by some grammarians6, but variants of lexemes related by internal conversion. If all such cases were regarded as homonyms, the number of homonyms in the English language would be practically limitless. If only some of them were treated as homonyms, that would give rise to uncontrolled subjectivity. The group of pluralia tantum is mostly composed of nouns denoting objects consisting of two or more parts, complex phenomena or ceremonies, e. g. tongs, pincers, trousers, nuptials, obsequies. Here also belong some nouns with a distinct collective or material meaning, e.g. clothes, eaves, sweets. Since

in these words the – s suffix does not function as a grammatical morpheme, it gets lexicalized and develops into an inseparable part of the stem 7. This, probably, underlies the fact that such nouns as mathematics, optics, linguistics, mumps, measles are treated as singularia tantum. Nouns like police, militia, cattle, poultry are pluralia tantum, judging by their combinability, though not by form 8. People in the meaning of «народ» is a countable noun. In the meaning of «люди» it belongs to the pluralia tantum. Family in the sense of «a group of people who are related» is a countable noun. In the meaning of «individual members of this group» it belongs to the pluralia tantum. Thus, the lexeme family has two variants: Sg. PL 1) family families 2) – family E.

g. Almost every family in the village has sent a man to the army. (Horney). Those were the oldest families in Jorkshire. (Black). Her family were of a delicate constitution. (Bronte). Similar variants are observed in the lexemes committee, government, board, crew, etc. Colour in the meaning «red, green, blue, etc». is a countable noun. In the meaning «appearance of reality or truth» (e. g. His torn clothes gave colour to his story that lie had been attacked by robbers. A. Horney.) it has no plural opposite and belongs to the singularia tantum. Colours in the sense of «materials used by painters and artists» has no singular opposite and belongs to the pluralia tantum. Thus, the lexeme has three variants: Sg. Pl. 1) colour colours 2) colour – 3) – colours. When

grammarians write that the lexical meanings of some plurals differ from those of their singular opposites 9, they simply compare different variants of a lexeme. Sometimes variants of a lexeme may belong to the same lexico-grammatical subclass and yet have different forms of number opposemes. Cf. brother (son of same parents) – brothers brother (fellow member) – brethren fish – fish (e.g. I caught five fish yesterday.) fish – fishes ('different species', e. g. ocean fishes). A collective noun is a word that designates a group of objects or beings regarded as a whole, such as «flock», «team», or «corporation». Although many languages treat collective nouns as singular, in others they may be interpreted as plural. In British English, phrases such as the committee are

meeting are common (the so-called agreement in sensu «in meaning», that is, with the meaning of a noun, rather than with its form). The use of this type of construction varies with dialect and level of formality. All languages are able to specify the quantity of referents. They may do so by lexical means with words such as English a few, some, one, two, five hundred. However, not every language has a grammatical category of number. Grammatical number is expressed by morphological and/or syntactic means. That is, it is indicated by certain grammatical elements, such as through affixes or number words. Grammatical number may be thought of as the indication of semantic number through grammar. Languages that express quantity only by lexical means lack a grammatical category of

number. For instance, in Khmer, neither nouns nor verbs carry any grammatical information concerning number: such information can only be conveyed by lexical items such as khlah 'some', pii-bey 'a few', and so on. Most languages of the world have formal means to express differences of number. The most widespread distinction, as found in English and many other languages, involves a simple two-way number contrast between singular and plural (car / cars; child / children, etc.). Other more elaborate systems of number are described below. The semantic nature of the difference between singular and plural may present some difficulties of interpretation. On the surface of semantic relations, the meaning of the singular will be understood as simply "one", as opposed to the