The absolute singular (singularia tantum) number and the absolute plural (pluralia tantum) number. Oppositional reduction of the category for different groups of nouns.

Different semantic types of the singular and the plural are dependent on the lexico-semantic differences between individual nouns, namely, the characteristics of their “quantitative nature”.

- For countable nouns the category of number is a variable feature category, or relative, since countable English nouns have both singular and plural correlative forms (table – tables).

- Uncountable nouns can be used either only in the singular or only in the plural; for them the category of number is absolute, or a constant feature category. The two groups of uncountable nouns are respectively defined as singularia tantum, or, absolute singular nouns and pluralia tantum, absolute plural nouns.

1) The absolute singular nouns usually denote the following referents: - abstract notions (love, hate, despair); - names of substances and materials (snow, wine, sugar); - branches of professional activity (politics, linguistics, mathematics); - some collective objects (fruit, machinery, foliage). There are some other singularia tantum nouns, that are difficult to classify, e.g., advice, news and others. As the examples above show, the nouns themselves do not possess any formal markers of their singularia tantum status: their form may either coincide with the regular singular – advice, or with the regular plural – news. Their singularia tantumstatus is formally established in their combinability: all singularia tantum nouns are used with the verbs in the singular; they exclude the use of the numeral “one” or of the indefinite article. Their quantity is expressed with the help of special lexical quantifiers little, much, some, any, a piece, a bit, an item, e.g.: an item of news, a piece of advice, a bit of joy, etc.

2) The absolute plural nouns usually denote the following: - objects consisting of two halves (scissors, trousers, spectacles); - some diseases and abnormal states (mumps, measles, creeps, hysterics); - indefinite plurality, collective referents (earnings, police, cattle). The nouns belonging to the pluralia tantum group are used with verbs in the plural; they cannot be combined with numerals, and their quantity is rendered by special lexical quantifiers a pair of, a case of, etc., e.g.: a pair of trousers, several cases of measles, etc.

In terms of the oppositional theory in the formation of the two subclasses of uncountable nouns the number opposition is “constantly” (lexically) reduced either to the weak member (singularia tantum) or to the strong member (pluralia tantum). Absolute singular nouns or absolute plural nouns are “lexicalized” as separate words or as lexico-semantic variants of regular countable nouns. For example: a hair as a countable noun denotes “a threadlike growth from the skin” as in I found a woman’s hair on my husband’s jacket; hair as an uncountable noun denotes a mass of hairs, as in Her hair was long and curly. Similar cases of oppositional neutralization take place when countable nouns are used in the absolute singular form to express - the corresponding abstract ideas, e.g.: to burst into laugh; - or the material correlated with the countable referent, e.g.: chicken soup; - or generic meaning, e.g.: The rose is my favourite flower (=Roses are my favourite flowers).

Lexicalizationof the absolute plural form of the noun can be illustrated with the following examples: colours as an absolute plural noun denotes “a flag”. Oppositional neutralization also takes place when regular countable collective nouns are used in the absolute plural to denote a certain multitude as potentially divisible, e.g.: The jury were unanimous in their verdict.

Cases of expressive transposition are stylistically marked, when singularia tantum nouns are used in the plural to emphasize the infinite quantity of substances, e.g.: the waters of the ocean, the sands of the desert, etc. This variety of the absolute plural may be called “descriptive uncountable plural”. A similar stylistically marked meaning of large quantities intensely presented is rendered by countable nouns in repetition groups, e.g.: thousand upon thousand, tons and tons, etc. This variety of the absolute plural, “repetition plural” can be considered a specific marginal analytical number form.


1. Noun as the central nominative lexemic unit of language. Categorial meaning of the noun. Formal characteristics of the noun. Syntactic functions of the noun. The noun as an attribute (“the cannon ball problem”).

2. Grammatically relevant subclasses. The grammatical peculiarities of different groups of nouns. Their selectional syntagmatic combinability.

3. The problem of gender category in English. Gender as a meaningful (natural) category and as a formal (arbitrary) category in different languages. Personal pronouns as gender classifiers of nouns. Gender oppositions of nouns. Oppositional reduction; personification.

4. Formal and functional peculiarities of the singular and the plural forms of nouns. Their oppositional presentation.

5. The absolute singular (singularia tantum) number and the absolute plural (pluralia tantum) number. Oppositional reduction of the category for different groups of nouns.

Key terms: - thingness, “the cannon ball problem”, common/proper noun, animate/ inanimate noun, human/non-human noun, countable/uncountable noun, concrete/abstract noun, selectional syntagmatic combinability

- biological sex, gender, formal category, meaningful category, gender classifiers, obligatory correlation, person/non-person nouns, neuter/feminine/masculine nouns, common gender, personification

- the singular/plural, (non-)productive means, (non-)dismembering (discrete, divisible) reflection of the referent, singularia tantum (absolute singular), pluralia tantum (absolute plural), generic use, lexicalization, collective meaning, descriptive plural, repetition plural

Необхідна література:


1. Блох М.Я. Теоретическая грамматика английского языка / М.Я. Блох. - М.: Высшая школа, 2003. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

2. Блох М.Я. Теоретические основы грамматики / М.Я. Блох. - М.: Высшая школа, 2004.

3. Ilyish B. The structure of Modern English. – Ленинград: Просвещение, 1971.

4. Иванова И.П., Бурлакова В.В., Почепцов Г.Г. Теоретическая грамматика современного английского языка. – М.: Высшая школа, 1981.

Morokhovska E.J. Fundamentals of English Grammar. – Kyiv:Vyšča Skola, 1993.

6. Alexeyeva I. Theoretical English Grammar Course. – Vinnytsya: Nova Knyha, 2007

7. Rayevska N.M. Modern English Grammar. – Kyiv:Vyšča Skola, 1976


8. Воронцова Г.Н. Очерки по граммике английского языка. – М.: Изд-во лит. на истр. яз., 1960.

9. Koshevaya I.G. The theory of English Grammar. – М.: Просвещение, 1982.

10. Худяков, А.А. Теоретическая грамматика английского языка: учебное пособие / А.А. Худяков. – М.: Академия, 2005.

Self - control questions

1. What is the categorical meaning of nouns?

2. What are the formal features of the noun?

3. What are the main syntactic functions of the noun?

4. Name two controversial issues in the “cannon ball problem”.

5. How many semantic oppositions of nouns do you know? Name them.

6. How many grammatical categories of nouns do you know?

7. Define the category of gender in English.

8. Disclose two oppositions of the category of gender in English.

9. Give the examples of neutralization and reduction in the category of gender.

10. Define the category of number.

11. What are productive and non-productive means of plural in English (Ukrainian)?

12. Define the notion of singularity/plurality.

13. What is absolute singular/plural?

14. What do you understand by regular and irregular formation of plural of nouns?

15. What is the difference between the terms “gender” and “sex”?

16. Compare the gender meanings in English and your native language?


1. Find equivalents of the following terms in Ukrainian. Give the definition of each of them:

thingness, “the cannon ball problem”, common noun, proper noun, animate noun, inanimate noun, human noun, non-human noun, countable noun, uncountable noun, concrete noun, abstract noun, selectional syntagmatic combinability

2. a) Give your examples to demonstrate non-limit ability of substantivizing of different parts of speech to disclose the meaning of “thingness”:

sweetness, preservation, love, a drive-in, ups and downs, ologies and isms, a free-for-all


b) Comments on formal features through which the underlined words are substantivized:

1) He who has a why to live can bear almost any how (Nietzsche). 2) You do this not because you can figure out the specific whys and hows, but because you trust His love and wisdom (Myers). 3) Wonderful what Hollywood will do to a nobody (Chandler). 4) God is not much interested in my stage image – the me I often present to others (Baty). 5) “If’s, and’s and but’s about conjunctions” (Lakoff).

3. Define syntactic functions of the nouns in the following sentences:

1) The girl was extremely beautiful in her sharkskin dress. 2) They were strangers in this town. 3) The governor’s secretary posted the letter too late. 4) She is a teacher of English.

4. Pick up compound nouns, free combinations of nouns, and imtermediary cases. Prove your choice:

telephone cards calls, crybaby, language teacher, smelling-salt, crime rate, ear-ring, love story, love-affair, traffic rules, billiard table, billiard room, rose garden, rose-tree, office manager, money policy committee, World Trade Organization

5. Characterize each of the following nouns according to its lexico-grammatical status:

Example: doctor – common, animate, person (human), countable

John, despair, house, horse, music, water, cattle, sky

6. Comment on migration of nouns from one subclass to another:

1) “What is that something that they possess – the sirens of the world! The Helens of Troy, the Cleopatras…?” (Christie) 2) “The position is one of the utmost delicacy,” said Mr. Jesmond. It seemed to Hercule Poirot that he had known not one Mr. Jesmond, but a dozen Mr. Jesmonds in his time, all using sooner or later the same phrase – ‘a position of the utmost delicacy’ (Christie). 3) “I have no superstitions about a Friday, sir.” “That is well,” said Poirot, “for, see you, today we make our Waterloo” (Christie). 4) The country will become an El Dorado if it wins the confidence of foreign partners (Business Week).

7. Think over famous N.Chomsky’s phrase: “Colourless green ideas sleep furiously” to demonstrate the notion of selective syntagmatic combinability. Why phrases like *I hate Bob and dishonesty, or *I love my mother and skiing are grammatically irrelevant (non-correct)? Give your examples of such a combinability of different groups of nouns


1. Find equivalents of the following terms in Ukrainian. Give the definition of each of them:

biological sex, gender, formal category, meaningful category, gender classifiers, person nouns, non-person nouns, neuter gender nouns, feminine nouns, masculine nouns, common gender nouns, personification

2. Find the female counterparts to the following masculine ones. Comment on lexical means to express gender in each case:

boy-friend, landlord, lion, bridegroom, stallion, actor, man-producer, master, wizard, count, baron, bachelor, sultan, cock, tom-cat, cock-sparrow, he-bear, jack-ass, businessman, executor, peacock, beau, widower, hero

3. Define the gender of each noun:

lady, boy, table, cat, mare, parent, chairman, chairperson, father, sun, police officer, professor

4. Analyse the following cases of personification, and explain the grammatical and semantic grounds of its mechanism in each sentence below:

1) “What kind of car do you have?” Ochs’s eyes twinkled. “British Jaguar. She runs like the wind” (Isles). 2)”We have our differences, gentlemen, but the sea doesn’t care about that. The sea – well, she tries to kill us all regardless what flag we fly” (Clancy). 3)”Look at the moon up there. You see her very plainly, don’t you? She’s very real. But if the sun were to shine you wouldn’t be able to see her at all” (Christie). 4) Russia will not solve the crisis using Western methods or Western thinking. She must turn inward, build on her own spiritual experience and her own spiritual insights to move ahead into a new future... The very least the Russian nation can do now for Orthodoxy is to protect her from the outside world - at least for a few years - to allow her to get back on her feet and to embark on the course that Russia and Russians demand of Her (Moscow News). 5) If you own a dog, it’s entirely your responsibility what food she gets (Times).


1. Find equivalents of the following terms in Ukrainian. Give the definition of each of them:

the singular, the plural, (non-)productive means, (non-)dismembering (discrete, divisible) reflection of the referent, singularia tantum (absolute singular), pluralia tantum (absolute plural), generic use, lexicalization, collective meaning, descriptive plural, repetition plural

2. Make the plural of the following nouns. Then group them into: 1) regular productive plural forms; 2) suppletive forms; 3) archaic forms; 4) forms with borrowed suffixes; 5) forms homonymous with singular:

foot, crisis, child, horse, stimulus, deer, louse, formula, man, pupil, ox, brother, cloth, terminus, trout, cow, swine, datum, goose, virtuoso, sheep, cactus, antenna, leaf

3. а) Unite 1) countable nouns; 2) singularia tantum nouns; 3) pluralia tantum nouns; and give contexts of their usage:

army, crowd, courage, peace, advice, evidence, family, money, hair, wages, acoustics

b) Translate into Ukrainian (or Russian), and comment on similiarities and differences in both languages:

watch, clothes, police, money, knowledge, oats, advice, news, hair

c) Expalin the usage of singular and plural in the following sentences:

1) The ethics of the situation are self-evident. – Ethics is actually taught as part of our course in philosophy. 2) The economics of this project are about right. – Economics is a subject often studied by future politicians.

4. Comment on different usage of number in the following sentences:

1) The group were assigned different tasks. 2) We visited the exhibition of Georgian wines. 3) They had two beers. 4) China is doing everything they can to prevent the secession of Taiwan (BBC). 5) A sparrow is a bird common in many parts of the world. 6) The deadly flu virus has killed another eighteen children (ABC). 7) … this type of babushka was liable to fly into a rage and ignore you for a full five minutes (Hobson).

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