The Category of Number of English Nouns — страница 6

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meaning of the plural as "many" in the sense of "more than one". This is apparently obvious for such correlations as book — books, lake — lakes and the like. However, alongside of these semantically unequivocal correlations, there exist plurals and singulars that cannot be fully accounted for by the above ready-made approach. This becomes clear when we take for comparison such forms as tear (one drop falling from the eye) and tears (treacles on the cheeks as tokens of grief or joy), potato (one item of the vegetables) and potatoes (food), paper (material) and papers (notes or documents), sky (the vault of heaven) and skies (the same sky taken as a direct or figurative background), etc. As a result of the comparison we conclude that the broader sememic mark

of the plural, or "plurality" in the grammatical sense, should be described as the potentially dismembering reflection of the structure of the referent, while the sememic mark of the singular will be understood as the non-dismembering reflection of the structure of the referent, i.e. the presentation of the referent in its indivisible entireness. It is sometimes stated that the plural form indiscriminately presents both multiplicity of separate objects ("discrete" plural, e.g. three houses) and multiplicity of units of measure for an indivisible object ("plural of measure", e.g. three hours) [Ilyish, 36 ff.]. However, the difference here lies not in the content of the plural as such, but in the quality of the objects themselves. Actually, the

singulars of the respective nouns differ from one another exactly on the same lines as the plurals do {cf. one house —one hour). On the other hand, there are semantic varieties of the plural forms that differ from one another in their plural quality as such. Some distinctions of this kind were shown above. Some further distinctions may be seen in a variety of other cases. Here belong, for example, cases where the plural form expresses a definite set of objects {eyes of the face, wheels of the vehicle, etc.), various types of the referent {wines, tees, steels), intensity of the presentation of the idea {years and years, thousands upon thousands), picturesqueness {sands, waters, snows). The extreme point of this semantic scale is marked by the lexicalisation of the plural form,

i.e. by its serving as a means of rendering not specificational, but purely notional difference in meaning. Cf. colours as a "flag", attentions as "wooing", pains as "effort", quarters as "abode", etc. The scope of the semantic differences of the plural forms might pose before the observer a question whether the category of number is a variable grammatical category at all. The answer to the question, though, doesn't leave space or any uncertainty: the category of number is one of the regular variable categories in the grammatical system of he English language. The variability of the category is simply given in its form, i.e. in the forms of the bulk of English nouns which do distinguish it by means of the described binary paradigm. As for

the differences in meaning, these arise from the interaction between the underlying oppositional sememic marks of the category and the more concrete lexical differences in the semantics of individual words. The most general quantitative characteristics of individual words constitute the lexico-grammatical base for dividing the nounal vocabulary as a whole into countable nouns and uncountable nouns. The constant categorial feature "quantitative structure" (see Ch. V, §3) is directly connected with the variable feature "number", since uncountable nouns are treated grammatically as either singular or plural. Namely, the singular uncountable nouns are modified by the non-discrete quantifiers much or little, and they take the finite verb in the singular, while the

plural uncountable nouns take the finite verb in the plural. The two subclasses of uncountable nouns are usually referred to, respectively, as singularia tantum (only singular) and pluralia tantum (only plural). In terms of oppositions we may say that in the formation of the two subclasses of uncountable nouns the number opposition is "constantly" (lexically) reduced either to the weak member (singularia tantum) or to the strong member (pluralia tantum). Since the grammatical form of the uncountable nouns of the singularia tantum subclass is not excluded from the category of number, it stands to reason to speak of it as the "absolute" singular, as different from the "correlative" or "common" singular of the countable nouns. The absolute