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no               The Loom of Language
of Aryan pronouns and verb flexions of the singular is far less apparent
in corresponding plural forms. In the everyday speech of Iceland and
of the Faeroes the dual now replaces the pluial form of the personal
pronoun, and one Bavarian dialect has enk (equivalent to our Old English
me) for the usual German accusative plural each corresponding to the
intimate nominative pluial ihr (p 126). This means that what is now
called the plural form of a personal pronoun or personal flexion of an
Aryan verb may really be what was once a dual form (cf Latin plural
nos (we), Greek dual noz, and plural kernels)
The number flexion -s of houses is not useless, as is the personal -s
of bakes, nor pretentious like the luxuriant Latin tense distinctions.
This does not mean that it 3 s an essential 01 even universal feature of
language Some English name-words, such as sheep and grouse^ and a
much larger class of modern Swedish words (including all nouns of the
baker-fisher class and neuter monosyllables) are like their Chinese or
Japanese equivalents That is to say, they have no separate plural form.
The absence of a distinctive plural form is not a serious inconvenience,
If a fisherman has occasion to emphasize the fact that he has caught
one trout, the insertion of the number itself, or of the "indefinite article"
a before the name of the fish, solves the problem in sporting circles,
where the number flexion is habitually shot of! game. Number flexion
does not give rise lo great difficulties for anyone who does not already
know how to write English, Nearly aU English nouns form their plural
by adding -s or replacing^ and o by ~zcv and -oes. As in other Germanic
languages, there is a class with the plural flexion in -#z (e g. oxen)* and
a class with phuals formed by internal vowel change (tousey mouse,
goose, man) The grand total of these exceptions is less than a dozen.
They do not tax the memory. So we should not gain much by getting
rid of number flexion.
The same is true of another very regular and useful, though by no
means indispensable, flexion called comparison. This is confined to, and
in Enghsh is the only distinguishing mark of, some members of the
class of words called adjectives. The English equivalent of a Latin or
German adjective had already lost other flexions before the Tudor
times. We make the two derivatives, respectively called the comparative
and superlative form of the adjective as listed in the dictionary by
adding -er (comparative), and ~ert (superlative), as in kinder and kindest.
There are but few irregularities, e.g. good-better—best, bad—worse—
worst, many or much—more—most. With these three outstanding