Foreign Plurals used in English besides Latin and Greek

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Ryanvadar
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Foreign Plurals used in English besides Latin and Greek

Post by Ryanvadar »

While it is common in English to borrow Latin and Greek plural forms (millennia, cacti, etc.), it seems rare to borrow plural forms from other languages.

The cases I've seen/heard:
*cherub -> cherubim and seraph -> seraphim (Hebrew)

*Sometimes borrowed Italian words take the Italian plural, especially things like music terms (tempo->tempi , but I've seen tempos more)

*Sometimes French loanwords in -eau or -au take an -x (chateaux). Dictionaries list both -x and -s.

*Some people don't pluralize Japanese loanwords

What cases of foreign plurals in English that aren't from Latin or Greek have you seen?
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Re: Foreign Plurals used in English besides Latin and Greek

Post by Salmoneus »

I don't think fully nativised English word take any non-Anglo-Saxon plurals, for most speakers. There are one or two seemingly Latin plurals (not sure if there are any Greek?), but these are probably best interpreted as simply irregular, since most speakers don't appear to recognise that these follow a pattern, and in all (?) cases the regular (or zero) plural is also found. In fact, how many words are there with where the Latin plural is more common?
[eg me hearing "he's an alumni" for the nine millionth time recently...]

For educated speakers, however, or in specialised contexts, I think you'd expect people to use Latin, Greek, Italian, German, Hebrew and possibly French and Spanish plurals (occasionally Arabic) - but this can probably be taken as evidence that these words are not yet fully nativised.
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Re: Foreign Plurals used in English besides Latin and Greek

Post by Dormouse559 »

Salmoneus wrote: 11 Jul 2021 00:43 I don't think fully nativised English word take any non-Anglo-Saxon plurals, for most speakers. There are one or two seemingly Latin plurals (not sure if there are any Greek?), but these are probably best interpreted as simply irregular, since most speakers don't appear to recognise that these follow a pattern, and in all (?) cases the regular (or zero) plural is also found. In fact, how many words are there with where the Latin plural is more common?
[eg me hearing "he's an alumni" for the nine millionth time recently...]
The native plurals tend to get pretty confused in English. I do think the Greek nouns in -sis/-ses (e.g. hypothesis, analysis) seem relatively stable, and they've even influenced the plurals of other nouns, biases and processes being the biggies.

Italian is an interesting case, since the most common borrowings from it in English come from plurals. So when dealing with Italian loans, the question is not whether someone uses the native plural but whether they use the native singular.
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Re: Foreign Plurals used in English besides Latin and Greek

Post by Khemehekis »

How about the Yiddish mensch/menschen?

The plural eisteddfodau (for eisteddfod) is found in English too.

And I agree with Salmoneus and Dormouse that many people mix the Classical plural endings up. On the old board for the Howe and Strauss theory, the concept of the saeculum, central to the theory, often got mispluralized as saeculi, even though Howe and Strauss use saecula in their books, and it becomes clear that -a is the correct plural ending once you take time to think about plurals like "data", "millennia", "stadia", "media", and "encomia".
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Re: Foreign Plurals used in English besides Latin and Greek

Post by Salmoneus »

Dormouse559 wrote: 11 Jul 2021 01:32
Salmoneus wrote: 11 Jul 2021 00:43 I don't think fully nativised English word take any non-Anglo-Saxon plurals, for most speakers. There are one or two seemingly Latin plurals (not sure if there are any Greek?), but these are probably best interpreted as simply irregular, since most speakers don't appear to recognise that these follow a pattern, and in all (?) cases the regular (or zero) plural is also found. In fact, how many words are there with where the Latin plural is more common?
[eg me hearing "he's an alumni" for the nine millionth time recently...]
The native plurals tend to get pretty confused in English. I do think the Greek nouns in -sis/-ses (e.g. hypothesis, analysis) seem relatively stable, and they've even influenced the plurals of other nouns, biases and processes being the biggies.
That's (the hypercorrections) just a US phenomenon, SFAIR (I didn't even know about 'biases'). But yes, you're right, those plurals are relatively well (though not universally) accepted - perhaps because the regular plural in -sises is so incredibly ungainly.
Italian is an interesting case, since the most common borrowings from it in English come from plurals. So when dealing with Italian loans, the question is not whether someone uses the native plural but whether they use the native singular.
Pasta, pizza, opera, soprano, volcano, lava, finale, fiasco, solo, scenario, ballerina, terracotta, extravaganza, minestrone, mozzarella, casino, mafia, malaria, ghetto, propaganda, vendetta... I'm missing your point, I think. There's 'paparazzi', but 'paparazzo' isn't that rare. Spaghetti, I guess - do Italians talk about an individual spaghetto? But in English that's not so much the wrong singular as just the fact that like many foodstuffs it's a mass noun in English (the singular is 'piece of spaghetti').
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Re: Foreign Plurals used in English besides Latin and Greek

Post by VaptuantaDoi »

Salmoneus wrote: 11 Jul 2021 02:48
Italian is an interesting case, since the most common borrowings from it in English come from plurals. So when dealing with Italian loans, the question is not whether someone uses the native plural but whether they use the native singular.
Pasta, pizza, opera, soprano, volcano, lava, finale, fiasco, solo, scenario, ballerina, terracotta, extravaganza, minestrone, mozzarella, casino, mafia, malaria, ghetto, propaganda, vendetta... I'm missing your point, I think. There's 'paparazzi', but 'paparazzo' isn't that rare. Spaghetti, I guess - do Italians talk about an individual spaghetto? But in English that's not so much the wrong singular as just the fact that like many foodstuffs it's a mass noun in English (the singular is 'piece of spaghetti').
There's a couple of examples which are count nouns; zucchini(s), salami(s).
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Re: Foreign Plurals used in English besides Latin and Greek

Post by Dormouse559 »

VaptuantaDoi wrote: 11 Jul 2021 03:18
Salmoneus wrote: 11 Jul 2021 02:48
Italian is an interesting case, since the most common borrowings from it in English come from plurals. So when dealing with Italian loans, the question is not whether someone uses the native plural but whether they use the native singular.
Pasta, pizza, opera, soprano, volcano, lava, finale, fiasco, solo, scenario, ballerina, terracotta, extravaganza, minestrone, mozzarella, casino, mafia, malaria, ghetto, propaganda, vendetta... I'm missing your point, I think. There's 'paparazzi', but 'paparazzo' isn't that rare. Spaghetti, I guess - do Italians talk about an individual spaghetto? But in English that's not so much the wrong singular as just the fact that like many foodstuffs it's a mass noun in English (the singular is 'piece of spaghetti').
There's a couple of examples which are count nouns; zucchini(s), salami(s).
I’ll moderate my statement above, but there is also biscotti and sometimes ravioli. Basically, compared to, say, French or Spanish borrowings, there’s a relatively higher amount of number shenanigans in Italian borrowings, including turning plurals into mass nouns.
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Re: Foreign Plurals used in English besides Latin and Greek

Post by Sequor »

I have sometimes seen graffito as a singular of graffiti. Normally graffiti seems to be some kind of mass noun... just like data. And media. Which you can notice when North Americans say things like "the media says...".

It seems to me that millennia is more clearly a plural among the people who use it. I don't think I've ever seen stadia... And the likes of encomia, symposia are rarely or never used by non-nerds...
Salmoneus wrote: 11 Jul 2021 00:43not sure if there are any Greek?
Well, there exist rumours some people have, on occasion, tried to use octopodes half-seriously... I've seen clitorides as a plural of clitoris, but just once.
Ryanvadar wrote: 10 Jul 2021 23:24What cases of foreign plurals in English that aren't from Latin or Greek have you seen?
I've seen ahadith (Arabic أحاديث ʔaħaadiiθ) as a plural of hadith (حديث‎ ħadiiθ), grabbing the Arabic plural, but more commonly it's just hadiths. Also ayat (آيات‎ ʔaayaat) as a plural of ayah (آية‎ ʔaaya, a verse of the Qur'an), but as you can see in the relevant Wikipedia article, there's also "ayahs".

People who write about China also regularly don't pluralize the traditional Chinese distance measure "li" (里 lǐ), e.g. "three hundred li". I don't think I've ever seen *lis in fact. Same goes for the small measure "jin" (斤 jīn, more or less half a kilogram), but that sometimes gets translated "catty" (plural catties) instead.
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Re: Foreign Plurals used in English besides Latin and Greek

Post by Dormouse559 »

Sequor wrote: 13 Jul 2021 08:02Well, there exist rumours some people have, on occasion, tried to use octopodes half-seriously... I've seen clitorides as a plural of clitoris, but just once.
In an alternate timeline, "octopodes" is the main plural form, and the power of its etymological correctness has brought world peace.
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Re: Foreign Plurals used in English besides Latin and Greek

Post by DesEsseintes »

Dormouse559 wrote: 13 Jul 2021 08:35 In an alternate timeline, "octopodes" is the main plural form, and the power of its etymological correctness has brought world peace.
Even though I’m well aware of its contemptible hypercorrective nature, I use octopi simply because the alternatives are all so awful. [xD]
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Re: Foreign Plurals used in English besides Latin and Greek

Post by Salmoneus »

VaptuantaDoi wrote: 11 Jul 2021 03:18
Salmoneus wrote: 11 Jul 2021 02:48
Italian is an interesting case, since the most common borrowings from it in English come from plurals. So when dealing with Italian loans, the question is not whether someone uses the native plural but whether they use the native singular.
Pasta, pizza, opera, soprano, volcano, lava, finale, fiasco, solo, scenario, ballerina, terracotta, extravaganza, minestrone, mozzarella, casino, mafia, malaria, ghetto, propaganda, vendetta... I'm missing your point, I think. There's 'paparazzi', but 'paparazzo' isn't that rare. Spaghetti, I guess - do Italians talk about an individual spaghetto? But in English that's not so much the wrong singular as just the fact that like many foodstuffs it's a mass noun in English (the singular is 'piece of spaghetti').
There's a couple of examples which are count nouns; zucchini(s), salami(s).
I can't speak about 'zucchini(s)', as this doesn't exist in my dialect (it's 'courgette'). But I've never heard 'salamis' - to me, salami is the meat, and is a mass noun. You have to say 'two slices of salami' and so forth.

I suppose someone could say "no, we didn't order one salami pizza and one margherita pizza, we ordered two salamis!" - but they could also say 'two salami!', and the occasions for this to be said are so few that I can't judge which would be the 'standard' plural and which would be the heat-of-the-moment analogous coinage.
Dormouse559 wrote: 11 Jul 2021 08:34
I’ll moderate my statement above, but there is also biscotti and sometimes ravioli. Basically, compared to, say, French or Spanish borrowings, there’s a relatively higher amount of number shenanigans in Italian borrowings, including turning plurals into mass nouns.
But I'm not sure this is really about Italian, because biscotti and ravioli SHOULD be mass nouns, or at least it shouldn't be a surprise: they're food, and they're small things generally found with many other identical versions of themselves.

[Biscotti is on the edge. I've heard both 'biscotto' and 'piece of biscotti' for a single biscotto. I also know someone who says 'biscotti', but in their case I think it's because they treat 'biscotti' as an adjective, and hence not declining for number - that is, they mostly say 'biscotti biscuits' or 'biscotti biscuit', and just sometimes shorten it to 'biscotti'. Similarly amaretti biscuits, though there of course there's the confounding factor that 'amaretto' has already been claimed for something else].

It's hard to compare with Spanish loanwords in particular, because they're so much rarer and more exotic. There just happen to be a bunch of common Italian food words, many of which refer to things that would naturally be mass nouns anyway.
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Re: Foreign Plurals used in English besides Latin and Greek

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Sequor wrote: 13 Jul 2021 08:02 I have sometimes seen graffito as a singular of graffiti. Normally graffiti seems to be some kind of mass noun... just like data.
Yes. In both cases, these are primarily mass nouns, which have singulative counterparts that are only found in technical, subject-matter writing. Although these originate as singular/plural pairs in another language, I don't think that's what they are in English.
And media. Which you can notice when North Americans say things like "the media says...".
For me (UK), 'media' usually takes the plural verb... but then, British English regularly has semantically plural nouns take plural verbs even when they're morphologically singular (England have just lost the Euros, etc), so that does't say anything. I think that, again, this is a mass noun in English, and the etymological singular, 'medium', is generally regarded as an unrelated word. The exception is in art classes, where 'media' as a plual of 'medium' is found ('mixed media'), but this is a technical usage not current among the public.
It seems to me that millennia is more clearly a plural among the people who use it.
Well done! I think this may be one of the few genuine vernacular latin plurals! Even that's not univocal, though, since you also hear 'millenniums'. And I wonder whether 'millennia' will rapidly decline as we move further from the Millennium and the word becomes less salient.

An annoying -a plural for me: phenomena. Annoying because people have now decided it's a singular!
I don't think I've ever seen stadia...
It's always used when talking about the Roman measurement. It's occasionally used when talking about stadiums.
And the likes of encomia, symposia are rarely or never used by non-nerds...
No need to get derogatory! But in any case, 'encomia' isn't really used by anyone - Google ngrams has it still rarer than 'encomiums' (when the word was used, back in the 19th century, 'encomiums' was vastly more common). Symposia is more common than symposiums, but the word is technical. Google ngrams reminds me that 'symposia' use to be much more popular than now, though: in the 70s and 80s it broke through into the worlds of politics and business (some business conferences called themselves business symposia). But this use has been declining since the 90s.
Well, there exist rumours some people have, on occasion, tried to use octopodes half-seriously...
But not vernacularly.
I've seen clitorides as a plural of clitoris, but just once.
This is the regular plural, but only in technical, medical uses (and probably not even universally there anymore). Otherwise it would only be used for humour.

There are a bunch of words with regular Greek plurals - but they're technical (most often found in biology). Stoma/stomata, and the like. Those that cross over into the vernacular tend to regularise the plural, or else divorce plural from singular - 'stigmata' is a semi-vernacular word (at least for those of us with Irish Catholic backgrounds...), but most people wouldn't immediately consider it the plural of 'stigma'.
People who write about China also regularly don't pluralize the traditional Chinese distance measure "li" (里 lǐ), e.g. "three hundred li". I don't think I've ever seen *lis in fact. Same goes for the small measure "jin" (斤 jīn, more or less half a kilogram), but that sometimes gets translated "catty" (plural catties) instead.
However, in this case, aside from the tendency to have zero plurals for Chinese and Japanese words, there's also the confounding tendency to have non-declining words as measure words. "Three hundred foot", "six stone", etc.
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Re: Foreign Plurals used in English besides Latin and Greek

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Salmoneus wrote: 13 Jul 2021 13:12 I can't speak about 'zucchini(s)', as this doesn't exist in my dialect (it's 'courgette'). But I've never heard 'salamis' - to me, salami is the meat, and is a mass noun. You have to say 'two slices of salami' and so forth.

I suppose someone could say "no, we didn't order one salami pizza and one margherita pizza, we ordered two salamis!" - but they could also say 'two salami!', and the occasions for this to be said are so few that I can't judge which would be the 'standard' plural and which would be the heat-of-the-moment analogous coinage.
I was thinking of "salamis" as in multiple whole salami sausages. Salami can for me be both a mass noun (referring to the substance) and a count noun (referring to the sausages).
[Biscotti is on the edge. I've heard both 'biscotto' and 'piece of biscotti' for a single biscotto. I also know someone who says 'biscotti', but in their case I think it's because they treat 'biscotti' as an adjective, and hence not declining for number - that is, they mostly say 'biscotti biscuits' or 'biscotti biscuit', and just sometimes shorten it to 'biscotti'. Similarly amaretti biscuits, though there of course there's the confounding factor that 'amaretto' has already been claimed for something else].
I'd use "biscotti" as a count noun with plural "biscotti" (although I wouldn't use it as an adjective), but I wouldn't be surprised to hear "biscottis" instead. On the other hand I would treat "amaretti" as an adjective [:S]
It's hard to compare with Spanish loanwords in particular, because they're so much rarer and more exotic. There just happen to be a bunch of common Italian food words, many of which refer to things that would naturally be mass nouns anyway.
I think the main reason Italian nouns are often borrowed in their plural form is cause Italian plurals don't end in s, whereas Spanish and (written) French plurals are mostly recognisable as plurals to English speakers. Although having said that, apparently "bolas" (which I've never heard of before) is a singular noun derived from a Spanish plural. "Tapas" is another possible example but it's invariable and I'm not sure whether I'd count it as singular or plural (?"the tapas was/were delicious").
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Re: Foreign Plurals used in English besides Latin and Greek

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Salmoneus wrote: 13 Jul 2021 13:12 It's hard to compare with Spanish loanwords in particular, because they're so much rarer and more exotic. There just happen to be a bunch of common Italian food words, many of which refer to things that would naturally be mass nouns anyway.
Well, now I'm the one pointing out regional differences [:P] I don't know about the UK, but it's nothing special to deal with Spanish food words in California.
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Re: Foreign Plurals used in English besides Latin and Greek

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Dormouse559 wrote: 11 Jul 2021 01:32 Italian is an interesting case, since the most common borrowings from it in English come from plurals. So when dealing with Italian loans, the question is not whether someone uses the native plural but whether they use the native singular.
Not here!

I'm not even sure what one would do with a whole whopping spaggheto or a single macarono, and only the most pretentious of percussionistas would play a single timpano. A single balono, I guess one could make one of those daintyummy little cocktail sadwiches!
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Re: Foreign Plurals used in English besides Latin and Greek

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Dormouse559 wrote: 13 Jul 2021 17:01 It's nothing special to deal with Spanish food words in California.
Or anywhere else in the US! Paellas, tapas, carcinerias, taquerias, empanadas, adobos --- happily Spanish plurals also end in -s, so we have no trouble with them.
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Thanks to Taco Bell, Americans talk about tacos, burritos, enchilafas, quesadillas, fajitas, and tamales all the time!
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Re: Foreign Plurals used in English besides Latin and Greek

Post by Pabappa »

osar is the plural of os, a Swedish loanword for a geographical feature common in Scandinavia. But both wiktionary and wikipedia list osar as merely a variant of os, with no restriction to plural.
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Re: Foreign Plurals used in English besides Latin and Greek

Post by All4Ɇn »

I’ve seen German plurals used before in history and philosophy for specific terms but these were often italicized and wouldn’t be words commonly used outside of these fields.

Apparently Poltergeister is an acceptable plural in English even if my phone’s decided to give it a red underline.
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Re: Foreign Plurals used in English besides Latin and Greek

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Khemehekis wrote: 14 Jul 2021 05:24 Thanks to Taco Bell, Americans talk about tacos, burritos, enchilafas, quesadillas, fajitas, and tamales all the time!
Right, so it would normally be the same pronunciation if it were singular or plural, like sushi... sushis. [:P]
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