Tagging, Labeling (singular / plural)

Discussion in 'All Languages' started by xxb, May 3, 2013.

  1. xxb Member

    Hello all! My question concerns tagging/labeling issues and why one way of tagging/labeling(either singular or plural) is preferred widely in a language.

    In English, if I tag plural countable things as singular, for example apples in a supermarket as "apple" not "apples" on a price tag would it be wrong? If it's not wrong, in English why plural way of tagging/labeling is practiced almost everywhere from restaurant menus to product packages for countable nouns if they have more than one quantity? I know that in English, a sentence is used like "I buy/like apples" and things like apples are counted grammatically. So in tagging, there's consistency with the sentential/grammatical usage. In Turkish language, it is said "I buy/like apple" so singulars are used for tagging since plurals aren't allowed to use in this manner. However, I noticed that in Portuguese language although there is countable/uncountable distinction just like English and many other European languages, countable nouns are tagged singular(I had asked that issue in Portuguese :http://forum.wordreference.com/showthread.php?t=2626141). Hence although it is said "I buy/like apples" in Portuguese, apples are widely tagged singular as "apple" which sounds surprising for me.

    So, I'd like to know how that countability issue is expressed in your language( such as I buy/like apples or I buy/like apple) and which way of tagging(singular or plural) is preferred in your country? I'd like to know if there is any research regarding that tagging issues as well. Thank you very much for your interest.
  2. AutumnOwl

    AutumnOwl Senior Member

    Swedish - Sweden, Finnish
    In Swedish it's a mix of singular and plural when it comes to tagging, for some items, for example apples, carrots, it's plural: Jag tycker om äpplen, Jag köper morötter, while others are singular, for example cucumber, pineapple: Jag tycker om gurka, Jag köper ananas (I like cucumber, I buy pineapples), and there are those who have the same form in singular and plural, such as plums, pears: Jag tycker om plommon, Jag köper päron. Most fruits are plural while vegetables are singular, but as you can see there are exceptions.
  3. xxb Member

    Thank you very much for your contribution. Yes, as far as I know onions are tagged singular as well, so "Lök" is another example regarding Swedish tagging. In addition, melons and watermelons are tagged both singular and plural. As long as that tagging issue is compatible with sentential usage/grammar, it sounds okey for me and I can understand that why there isn't any explanation/exemplification in research, language books etc. Because in some languages, items are grammatically counted (i.e. apples, jackets, toothpicks etc.) and it's natural that countability is reflected to tagging. Hence apples are tagged as "apples" not "apple" while boxes of milk are tagged "milk" in a supermarket. However, Portuguese examples made me questioning that issue and I wanted to see how tagging/labeling works in other languages.

    Would be good to see more examples in other languages/countries. I'm looking forward to your responses.
    Last edited: May 3, 2013
  4. Gavril Senior Member

    English, USA
    In the United States, I think most foods are indicated at markets/supermarkets using the plural form ("apples" rather than "apple", etc.), rather than the singular. There may be some exceptions to this: I seem to recall seeing particularly large food items, such as watermelons or cantaloupes, labelled in the singular ("watermelon", "cantaloupe") at some markets.

    If my memory is correct here, then maybe larger food items are more often labelled in the singular because it's more normal for a person to buy just one of them (one watermelon, one cantaloupe, etc.). By contrast, smaller items such as apples, mushrooms, carrots, etc., tend to be bought in plural quantities.

    Again, this is just the United States -- maybe other English-speaking countries have slightly different conventions.
  5. xxb Member

    Thanks for the input. Regarding large fruits I also figured out that they are labeled plural (i.e watermelons) like other fruit and vegetables on their carton boxes that contain many of them. However they can be tagged singular on a price tag. Anyways, overall tagging/labeling in English seems compatible with the grammar. For any countable item not only foods for example clothes, devices etc. plural is used as far as I've seen in English language.
    Last edited: May 4, 2013
  6. Youngfun

    Youngfun Senior Member

    Pekino, Ĉinujo
    Chinese/Italian - bilingual
    In Chinese there's no plural, so we dont have this problem.

    With Italian, I think that it's the asme as people above said. Big items in singular, and medium/small ones in plural.
    The particularity is that some uncountable words can become plural to indicate the kinds, so that meat is carne, but the plural carni means "meats". Erba means grass, but erbe means herbs.

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