Saturday, March 29, 2014

Detail #83: Some fun with grammatical number

Recall how there are two types of all-quantifiers in English (and in many other languages as well):

every man / each man vs. all men
In English, the former is formed and perceived as singular, the latter as plural. Semantically, there's some differences in meaning, but for some utterances, the difference is almost stylistic more than pertaining to any real difference in the situation described. (Such examples are somewhat few and far between, though).

However, what if we extended this to other things referring to a non-singular number of entities:

somery man vs. some men
anery man vs. any men
We could even extend it to the plural itself:
ery man vs. men vs. ery men (several men taken as individuals vs. a bunch of men perceived as a group vs. bunches of groups of men taken as individual groups), thery man vs. the men vs. thery man (same but definite)
fivery man vs. five men vs. fivery men (five men considered on an individual basis, vs. a bunch of five men considered as a group vs. groups of five men)
This per se isn't that interesting, but how does it interact with other things in the language?

Some people may want to be able to distinguish
the thieves hid themselves
each of the thieves hid himself  
In a language with the system described above, you'd get
the thieves hid themselves
thery thief hid himself
Further it might be possible to stack these:
ery five men :   all groups of five men
thery fivery men : any set of a particular set of men as individuals considered in a combination of five of them.
 Not a particularly new idea per se, but few conlangers ever discuss how introducing something like this affects things like reflexives and so on.

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