Grammar World: Pluralization in English

By Moshood Alabi, PhD Candidate

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Language scholars know that all languages share some characteristics that are peculiar to all of them. These shared features make it easy for an individual who has some levels of competence in the use of a language to learn another language easily. These features are known as LANGUAGE UNIVERSALS.  One of such linguistic features that can be found in most languages is PLURALIZATION.
Pluralization is an aspect of language that examines items that are more than one. Although in some languages,like Arabic,plurals start with three and not two. In other words,Arabic language has DUAL before PLURAL. In the English language,plural starts with anything more than one.
Pluralization does not affect all the word classes. It only affects some of the open word classes like noun and verb and as well as a closed class : pronoun.  I do not see difficulties in identifying pluralization in verbs and pronouns. In verbs,for example,the singular form usually ends with the suffix S.
Here are some examples:
Goes
Does
Has
Talks
Was
As a rule,this verb form usually agrees with a subject that is singular.
The lady walks smartly.
My school closes early every day.
Examine the words walks and closes that agree with the subjects lady and school respectively.
Pluralization in pronouns is also not difficult because the words are limited.
We
Us
They
Them
These
Those
Ourselves
Themselves
Yourselves
One another
Each other
Several
Many
Both
Few
Ours
Theirs
Yours
Those can be some of the examples of the plural forms of pronoun.
 However, in nouns, pluralization is complex.
Apart from the usual principles of changing a singular to plural like
Adding the suffix S or ES in words like
Boys
Benches
Or changing f or y by adding es like
Knives
Ladies
As well as some other forms like
Changing oo to ee
Tooth to Teeth
Or with some foreign words
Radius to Radii
Stimulus to Stimuli
Memorandum to Memoranda.
There are still some technical parts that need to be clarified. One of such area is the pluralization of the following words. No matter the environment of usage in a sentence,they are always plural.  The words are:
Police
Clergy
Staff
Vermin
Cattle
Never say,
The police is here.✖
Say,
The police are here.
Apart from that, noun phrases formed through the definite article  THE and an adjective are categorized as plurals.
Examples are:
The rich
The poor
The blind
Never say,
The blind is in need✖
Say,
The blind are in need.
Another impediment is the way plurals are formed with  compound nouns.
How will you form the plurals of
Mother-in-law
Woman doctorl?
The plural of mother-in-law is mothers-in-law because the head word in the compound name is MOTHER.
A word like woman doctor can have the plural as women doctors because the two words are the head.
In conclusion,no language is static. As the language grows and develops,some of these rules can change. What is important is that pluralization is one of the linguistic features that are common to most languages of the world. The English language is, however,not exempted, but there are some some complexities in forming  the plurals of some English words. These complexities will be further discussed next week.
References
Glenceo.G.Hill(2009) Writer’Choice : Grammar and Composition. USA: MacMillan
Richards.C.J,Schmidt .R.(2002) Longman Dictionary of Language Teaching and Applied Linguistics. England: Longman

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