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Semi-pseudo-plurals and semi-quasi-pseudo-plurals.

A recent perusal of Webster's Third New International Dictionary has uncovered a number of pseudo-plurals and quasi-pseudo-plurals that were not included in my article in the last issue of this journal (Word Ways 44.2). These new examples are listed in Figure 1 and Figure 2 respectively:
 Figure 1: English pseudo-plurals:
 Noun A
DIVE        'the act of diving' PE          'a Hebrew
letter' SPECIE      'money in coin' TAP         'a
light rap' TAW         'a marble' TOOT        'a
blast on a wind instrument' YAW         'an angular
Noun B
DIVES       'a rich man' PES         'part of the hind
limb of a vertebrate' SPECIES     'a category of biological
classification' TAPS        'a bugle call' TAWS
'a whip' ROOTS       'a woman, girl' YAWS
'an infectious disease'
 Figure 2: English quasi-pseudo-plurals:
 Noun A
ALA         'a Sumerian drum' BU          'a Japanese
coin' CRU         'a French vineyard' DA
'Brit. dial., father' KA          'the soul of a dead
person' KAMIA       'an Indian people of California' LI
'a virtue in Confucianism' MANA        'a supernatural
force' MANU        'a progenitor of humans in Hinduism MARQUE
'a brand of a product' MONA        'a West African
monkey' NAI         'a barber caste of Hindus' NAIA
'a genus of snakes' NAO         'a sailing ship' PU
'Scot. var. of pull' RAJA        'an Indian prince'
SANTO       'a saint' SI          'a musical note'
TAXI        'a cab'
Noun B
ALAS        'an Indonesian people' BUS         'a large
motorized vehicle' CRUS        'a part of the leg' DAS
'Hindu slave' KAS         'a Dutch cupboard' KAMIAS
' East Indian evergreen tree' LIS         'a flower'
MANAS       'mental perception in Hinduism' MANUS
'an Austronesian language' MARQUES     'a marquess in Sp.
speaking countries' MONAS       'a genus of flagellates'
NAIS        'a river nymph' NAIAS       'a genus of
aquatic plants' NAOS        'an ancient temple' PUS
'a month of the Hindu calendar' RAJAS       'on of the
three gunas in Hinduism' SANTOS      'Brazilian coffee'
SIS         'sister' TAXIS       'the restoration of a
body part'
The examples listed above confirm my impressionistic view that (in
English) it is easier to find quasi-pseudo-plurals than pseudo-plurals. 

As I explained in my earlier article, examples like the ones in Figure 2 do not qualify as pseudoplurals because they are not pronounced as pseudo-plurals. In particular, the final -s in the words in the Noun B column of Figure 2 is pronounced as [s] and not as [z], which is the normal realization for the plural marker -s after a singular word ending in a vowel, e.g. LLAMA~ LLAMAS.

In my earlier article I was only concerned with the pronunciation of the final - s in the word in the Noun B column above, not with the material preceding that letter. I refer henceforth to that part of the word as the 'root'. A close look at the examples in Figure 1 reveals that the root vowel is the same in certain pairs of words, while it is different in others. Consider TAP- TAPS and TOOT-TOOTS. Clearly, TAPS and TOOTS are pseudo-plurals because the -s is pronounced as [s], as it is in true plurals after P or T (e.g. CAPS, CATS). However, the two pairs differ in terms of the pronunciation of the respective root vowels: In TAP~TAPS the vowels are pronounced the same in both members of the pair, but in TOOT-TOOTS the vowels are not the same. I refer henceforth to the former as a 'pseudoplural' and to the latter as a 'semi-pseudo-plural'. The same dichotomy holds for quasi- pseudoplurals: In CRU~CRUS and TAXI~TAXIS from Figure 2 we are clearly not dealing with pseudo- plurality because the -s in CRUS and TAXIS is pronounced as [s], but only CRUS is a true 'quasi-pseudo-plural' because the spoken vowel in CRU and CRUS is the same. By contrast, the example TAXIS is 'semiquasi-pseudo-plural' because the vowels in TAXIS are not pronounced the same as the vowels in TAXI.

The upshot of the preceding discussion is that it is now possible to establish a much more fine-grained classification of (quasi)-(pseudo)-plurality:
 plural:                    DOG~DOGS pseudo-plural:
TAP~TAPS semi-pseudo-plural:        TOOT~TOOTS quasi-pseudo-plural:
CRU~CRUS semi-quasi-pseudo-plural:  TAXI~TAXIS 

I make no attempt here to calculate the number of 'quasis' in Figures 1 and 2 or in my previous article.

T. A. Hall

Bloomington, Indiana
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Author:Hall, T.A.
Publication:Word Ways
Article Type:List
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 1, 2011
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