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Morphological characteristics




§ 170. Morphologically nouns are characterized by the grammatical categories of number and case.

Gender does not find regular morphological expression. The distinction of male, female, and neuter may correspond to the lexical meaning of the noun:

masculine (names of male beings) - boy, man, husband, bachelor, ox, cock;
feminine (names of female beings) - girl, woman, wife, maid, cow, hen;
neuter (names of inanimate objects) - table, house.

The distinction may be also expressed by word-formation of different types:

 

a) feminine suffixes

-ess (actress, hostess, poetess, tigress),

-ine (heroine),

-ette (usherette);

 

b) compounds of different patterns:

 

noun + noun stem pronoun + noun stem
Tom-cat doctor dog-otter male-frog cock-pheasant - Tabby-cat - woman-doctor - bitch-otter - female-frog - hen-pheasant he-wolf he-cousin - she-wolf - she-cousin
       

 

There are also some traditional associations of certain nouns with gender. These are apparent in the use of personal or possessive pronouns:

 

a) moon and earth are referred to asfeminine, sun asmasculine:

 

It is pleasant to watch the sun in his chariot of gold and the moon in her chariot of pearl.

At first the earth was large, but every moment she grew smaller.

 

b) the names of vessels (ship, boat, steamer, ice-breaker, cruiser, etc.) are referred to asfeminine:

 

The new ice-breaker has started on her maiden voyage.

She is equipped with up-to-date machinery.

 

c) the names of vehicles (car, carriage, coach) may also be referred to asfeminine, especially by their

owners, to express their affectionate attitude to these objects:

She is a fine car.

 

d) the names of countries, if the country is not considered as a mere geographical territory, are referred to as

feminine:

England is proud of her poets.



But: If the name of the country is meant as a geographical one the pronoun it is used. Iceland is an island, it is washed on three sides by the Atlantic Ocean.

The category of number

§ 171. English nouns that are inflected for number (count nouns) have singular and plural forms.

Singular denotes one,plural denotes more than one. Most count nouns are variable and can occur with either singular or plural number. In Modern English the singular form of a noun is unmarked (zero). The plural form is marked by the inflexion -(e)s. The spelling and the pronunciation of the plural morpheme vary.

Regular plurals

 

I. Nouns ending in vowels and voiced consonants have the plural ending pronouced as [z]:

 

bee - bees [bi:z], dog - dogs [dɔgz]

 

II. Nouns ending in voiceless consonants have a voiceless ending:

 

book - books [buks]

 

III. Nouns ending in -s, -sh, -as, -ch, -x, -z, (sibilants) have the ending [iz]:

 

actress - actresses ['æktrɪsɪz]

bush - bushes ['bu∫ɪz]

watch - watches ['wot∫ɪzj

box - boxes ['boksɪz]

 

IV. Nouns ending in -o have the ending [z]:

 

hero - heroes ['hɪǝrouz]

photo- photoes ['foutouz]

 

The regular plural inflexion of nouns in -o has two spellings;-oswhich occurs in the following cases:

 

a) after a vowel - bamboos, embryos, folios, kangaroos, radios, studios, zoos;

 

b) in proper names - Romeos, Eskimos, Filipinos;

 

c) in abbreviations, kilos (kilogramme), photos (photograph), pros (professional);

 

d) also in some borrowed words: pianos, concertos, dynamos, quartos, solos, tangos, tobaccos.

 

In other cases the spelling is-oes: tomatoes, echoes, Negroes, potatoes, vetoes, torpedoes, embargoes

 

Note:

 

Some nouns may form their plural in either way:

oes/os: cargo(e)s, banjo(e)s, halo(e)s.

 

V. The letter -yusually changes into-i:

sky skies [skaiz]

 

But the letter -y remains unchanged -ys:

 

a) after vowels:

days (except in nouns ending in-quy: soliloquy - soliloquies).

 

b) in proper names:

the two Germanys, the Kennedys, the Gatsbys;

 

c) in compounds:

stand-bys, lay-bys.

 

The word penny has two plural forms:

pence (irregular) - in British currency to denote a coin of this value or a sum of money:

 

Here is ten pence (in one coin or as a sum of money);

pennies (regular) - for individual coins.

 

Here are ten pennies.

 

VI. Thirteen nouns ending in-f(e) form their plural changing-f(e)into-v(e): the ending in this case is pronounced [z]:

 

calf - calves elf - elves half - halves knife - knives leaf - leaves life - lives loaf - loaves self - selves sheaf - sheaves (снопы) shelf – shelves thief - thieves wife - wives wolf - wolves

 

Other nouns ending in-f(e) have the plural inflexion -s in the regular way: proof - proofs, chief - chiefs, safe - safes, cliff - cliffs, gulf - gulfs, dwarf - dwarfs, reef- reefs, grief - griefs; the ending is pronounced [s].

 

In a few cases both-fs and-ves forms are possible:

 

scarf - scarfs/scarves,

dwarf - dwarfs/dwarves,

hoof - hoofs/hooves.

 

VII. Nouns ending in-th after a short vowel have the ending -s [s]:

 

month — months [mʌnθs].

 

Nouns ending in-th after a long vowel or a diphthong have [9z] in the plural: baths [ba:ðz], paths [paðz], oaths [ouðz].

But: youths [ju:θs], births [bǝ:θs].

 

VIII. The plural of abbreviations is sometimes formed in spelling by doubling a letter:

 

Ms (manuscript) p. (page) Mr (Mister) M.P. (Member of Parliament) M.D. (Doctor of Medicine) Co. (Company) - MSS - pp. - Messrs ['mesǝz] - M.P.s ['em'pi:z] - M.D.s ['em'di:z] - Co.s [kouz]

 

In a phrase like "Miss Brown" two different forms are used for the plural. We may either say "the Miss Browns" or "the Misses Brown", the latter being generally considered more correct.

Irregular plurals

 

§ 173. For historical reasons certain nouns form their plural differently.

 

1. Seven nouns distinguish plural from singular by vowel change:

 

man - men woman - women tooth - teeth foot – feet goose - geese mouse - mice louse - lice

 

2. Two nouns have-en to mark the plural:

 

ox - oxen, child - children.

Brother has two plural forms: brothers and brethren, the latter being used as a religious term or in elevated style to denote people of the same creed, not relations.

 

3. With some nouns the plural is identical with the singularform (fordetails see § 176, II):

 

a) sheep-sheep (овца/ы);

swine - swine (свинья/и);

deer - deer (олень/и);

grouse - grouse (куропатка/и).

 

This sheep looks small. All those sheep are good.

I bought a grouse (three grouse for dinner).

There’re so many fish, they splinter the paddles.

Note:   There, are some animal names that have two plurals: fish - fish/fishes, pike - pike/pikes, trout - trout/trouts, carp –carp/carps, salmon - salmon/salmons.   The zero plural is more common to denote hunting quarries (We caught only a few fish. We caught five salmon. He shot quail (перепелок) to make money), whereas the regular plural is used to denote different individuals, species, kinds of animal, especially fish with the same name or insects or other small animals which cause disease or damage.  
The plant was covered in greenfly. This animal is infected with hookworm. There are three greenflies on my hand. Two large hookworms were found in his stomach. There were two quailsforsale.  

 

b) identical singular and plural forms are also typical of nationality nouns in -ese, -ss: Chinese, Japanese, Portuguese, Swiss.

 

We met a Japanese. We met many Japanese on our holiday.

Note:

 

The word for people of the country is the same as the plural noun; the other way is to use substantivized adjectives in this sense:

Englishmen - the English Dutchmen - the Dutch.

 

c) two nouns borrowed from Latin and one from French also have identical forms for singular and plural:

 

series - series (ряд, серия);

species - species (вид, порода, род)

corps [ko:] - corps [ko:z] (корпус, род войск).

 

d) names, indicating number, such as:

pair, couple, dozen, score (два десятка),

stone (мера веса: 14 англ. фунтов = 6,35 кг) and

head (голова - поголовье скота)

 

have the same form for both the singular and plural when they are preceded by a numeral, that is, they

function as an indication of a kind of measure: two dozen of handkerchiefs, five dozen of eggs. The child

weighs two stone. One thousand head of cattle.

 

But when they have no number as predeterminer they take the usual plural form: dozens of times, to go in pairs.

 

4. A number of foreign (particularly Latin and Greek) nouns have retained their original plural endings.

Loans of Greek origin

Singular Plural
-is [ɪs] basis crisis analysis thesis parenthesis axis hypothesis diagnosis   -on [ǝn] criterion phenomenon -а [ǝ] miasma -es [i:z] bases crises analyses theses parentheses axes hypotheses diagnoses   -а [ǝ] criteria phenomena -ata [ǝtǝ] miasmata

Loans of Latin origin

 

-us [ǝs]     stimulus nucleus radius corpus genus   -а [ǝ] formula antenna vertebra -um [ǝm] datum stratum erratum   -es,-ix [ɪks] index appendix matrix -i [ai] -ога [ǝrǝ] -era [ǝrǝ] stimuli nuclei radii corpora genera -ае [i:] formulae (or regular - formulas) antennae vertebrae   -a [ǝ] data strata errata   -ices [ɪsi;z] indices appendices matrices     [i:z] or indexes or appendixes or matzixes

Other loan nouns

 

Fr. -ean [ou] tableau bureau   It.-o[ou] tempo -eaux [ouz] tableaux bureaux (or bureaus)   -i [i] tempi (or tempos)

 

As can be seen from the above list some loan nouns may have two plural forms: the English plural and the original foreign one:

 

memorandum memoranda memorandums   focus foci focuses  
curriculum curricula curriculums      
formula formulae formulas      
cherub cheribum cherubs    

 

There is a tendency to use the regular English plural forms in fiction and colloquial English and the foreign plural in academic or learned language.

Sometimes different plural forms have different meanings:

 

index   indexes (list of contents of books) indices (a mathematical term - показатель)  
genius   geniuses (men of talent) genii (fabulous spirits guarding a place - духи, домовые)  

 

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