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Thread: Swedish: singular / plural for groups of animals.

  1. #1
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    Swedish: singular / plural for groups of animals.

    In a text I came across this passage on Stockholm zoo: Där finns ocks
    å ett zoo med huvudsaklingen nordiska djur, t ex varg, lo och älg. Why isn't the plural form used for the animal names, or is this an error?

  2. #2
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    Re: Swedish plural (deviation from the norm?)

    I can't explain why the singular is used, but it's intentionally done, and it's common when talking about different species/groups of animals, Swedish uses the singular while English uses the plural.
    "Colorless green ideas sleep furiously" is grammatically correct but semantically nonsensical

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    Re: Swedish: plural (deviation from the norm?)

    I think it's fair to consider these forms cases of plurale tantum.
    Linguistics is always descriptive. Never prescriptive.

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    Re: Swedish: plural (deviation from the norm?)

    Quote Originally Posted by Tjahzi View Post
    I think it's fair to consider these forms cases of plurale tantum.
    They can't be plurale tantum being in singular. Glasses and intestines are examples of plurale tantum in English. In our case the use of singular can be explained simply that the names of a species normally is in sigular.
    Last edited by Ben Jamin; 11th March 2013 at 3:21 PM.

  5. #5
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    Re: Swedish: singular / plural for groups of animals.

    It's a usage that is used in English too - birdwatchers for example very often refer to having seen a number of lapwing rather than lapwings (and I've seen more than one heated online discussion about correct usage of plural v non-plural species name usage!).

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    Re: Swedish: singular / plural for groups of animals.

    Quote Originally Posted by Stoggler View Post
    having seen a number of lapwing rather than lapwings
    Perhaps that is done in swedish too by birdwatchers. Though personally I'd use plural in conjunction with number of. Though if not specifying a number or using any expression related to it, I'd say "Idag har jag sett kråka, korp"... (Today I've seen crow, raven), even if I'd seen many of either, which is a parallell to OP.

    I can see the controversiality of "number of lapwing", but in a scientific setting slightly different rules seem to be in use; even signifying scientific use.
    ...men på den tiden fanns inte Wikipedia, så man fick klara sig med att förstå själv.

  7. #7
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    Re: Swedish: plural (deviation from the norm?)

    Quote Originally Posted by Ben Jamin View Post
    They can't be plurale tantum being in singular. Glasses and intestines are examples of plurale tantum in English. In our case the use of singular can be explained simply that the names of a species normally is in sigular.
    Sorry, you are of course right.

    What I meant to say was that these forms are to be regarded as mass nouns in this context.
    Linguistics is always descriptive. Never prescriptive.

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