Though originally a West Germany language, English is presently a global lingua franca following its wide use and the national language of several sovereign states. The knowledge of English has become a basic requirement for a number of professions, fields, and occupations. Its greatest impact is attributed to the reduction of native linguistic diversity across the world hence promoting mutual understanding amongst mankind of different backgrounds (Todd, pg. 7). Like any other discipline, the English language has evolved over time following the contribution of the Greek language. This discussion looks at Greek and Latin plurals borrowed into the English language citing plurals such as fungus/fungi and bacterium/bacteria as an example. The paper will discuss whether the words are formed following a given rule; find out of their certain word that people know the Greek/Latin plurals and what they have in common. Finally, the paper identifies if the Panini's principle comes into play when choosing the plural affix.
The reason the English language has borrowed so many words from other languages is based on the British history of invasions; leading to the mixture of traditions, language, and culture. History books keep track of wars, victories and losses that the British went through as they expanded their territories in such of raw materials and spread civilization. In the 19th century, incorporation of word from Greek or Latin was huge because English lacked words connected to the academic areas (Gelderen, Pg. 14-17). The Latin and Greeks are known to be scholars, and their works are significant components of various disciplines such as mathematics and physics. English words borrowed from Greek word especially through literary tradition are easily recognized from their spelling. In Greek, ‘ai' was written as ‘ae" and ‘k ‘as ‘c' an implication that Latin had standard conventions (pronunciation) for the orthography of Greek borrowings. Similar conventions have been carried over into English making it easier to recognize a word of Greek origin. Forming plurals in English depends on grammatical numbers an implication that if the noun is countable, then they have different forms for plural and singular.
English has borrowed many words from Greek and Latin and while many of the borrowed words make plural inflections like normal English words (adding an‘s’ in the end) most of them retain original plurals. Lexical Phonology refers to a theory with regards to the organization of grammar particularly the relationship between phonology and morphology. The Latin or Greek plurals in English can be said to be lexical in nature. This is because ancient Greek marked every word with a different ending depending on its number and case which implied that one had to know different endings for every possible combination of words. Using the word phenomenon as an example, the word had six possible endings for every combination of number and case. The stem word is ‘phenomen'; adding ‘on' creates an ending for normative singular while adding ‘a' creates an ending from normative plural (Owen, Par. 5). It is clear that the English language only borrowed the normative forms. This could be the reason English speakers struggle with Latin and Greek plurals.
Most of the Latin and Greek words sound as if part of the singular has been subtracted instead of being added or replaced to make the plural for example, deleting an' from stadium to make stadia in Latin and the difference in pronunciation of ‘n' between phenomena and phenomenon in Greek.
Other examples of Latin words in plural
The words used into the chart have been borrowed into the English language and is prevalent in various academic fields.
The Latin word are challenging in that the plural form sounds as though singular.
The plural form adds an “e” at the end of the word.
Similarly like the above example the plural form involves an addition of “es” or “ices” at the end of the word.
‘Examples of Greek words
The words have been adopted into the English language and the plural form involves deleting “is” and adding “es”.
Greek and Latin can be tricky for most English speakers; the plural for phenomenon is phenomena, but it is common to hear the same being treated as singular and even regular plurals like phenomenas being sometimes formed. Such errors may be dismissed as a product of ignorance because presently people do not know their Greek and Latin declensions like before. English speakers are used to a system that requires different endings to mark singulars and plurals of which in most cases are not related as opposed to the Greek and Latin language which the process of pluralizing involves deleting one ending and attaching another (Owen, Par. 6). The process of pluralizing borrowed word from Latin and Greek in English is an interesting phenomenon as it provides insight into how different languages operate. The Panini principle offers an insightful analysis of Sanskrit. It involves a descriptive coverage on usage and features of the standard language of panini's time. However, the principle clearly does not apply when choosing the plural affix for Latin and Greek words. The rule does apply in Italian words in that the borrowed words are always expressed in plural. There is no need to add an ending to the borrowed words such as spaghetti, cannoli and ravoioli because they are already in plural. However, most English speakers attach an “s” to signify plural which is wrong.
All languages transform over time because there is no fixed formulated correspondence between meaning in human language and sound. Although there is no clear explanation why certain changes take place and not others, the reason behind the changes is attributed to changes in surroundings. Language is an expression of our environment and human activity and changes in the two will result to innovations in the language. Secondly, changes in language are attributed to contact with other languages. This may be the reason why isolated communities seem to transform the least. The procedure of pluralizing borrowed words from Greek and Latin in English is an interesting phenomenon as it provides insight into the dynamics of different languages. When relating this to the Panini principle, we find that the principle is not relevant since it does not apply when choosing the plural affix for Latin and Greek words.
Gelderen, Elly . A History of the English Language. Amsterdam [u.a.: Benjamins, 2006. Print.
Owen, Jonathon. A strange Plural Phenomena. Visual Thesaurus. April 10, 2013. Retrieved from http://www.visualthesaurus.com/cm/wc/a-strange-plural-phenomena/ on 9/12/2014.
Todd, Loreto. An Introduction to Linguistics. Burnt Mill, Harlow, Essex, England: Longman, 1987. Print.