Thursday, 12 September 2013

subject-verb agreement or pluralia tantum

Mental Floss has a provoking list to puzzle of nouns that exist in the English language only in their plural form, like scissors, eye-glasses, amenities, britches, riches and remains. There is a complimentary phenomenon called singulare tantum, which are called the uncountable nouns, like information or comparing the last two previous examples—wealth and dust.

The formation occurs in other languages but the set of vocabulary is not the same, such as Eltern (German for parents and never used to refer to just the mother or father without complication) or Ferien (holidays and never singular, even when referring to a specific one or time of the year) or the Dutch hersenen (for brains, but unlike the German Gehirn, is meaningless without the -en). Ciseaux (scissors), lunettes (glasses), ténèbres (tenets, beliefs) are similar in English and French, and some words are flexible. Though it is interesting to try to figure out the logic and influence and imagine grammar another way, it sounds however very contrived to speak of a pant, when not breathless, or of a glass when referring to peripherals.