There are a number of typologically distinct languages

Thomas1

Senior Member
polszczyzna warszawska
There are a number of typologically distinct languages, including some Bantu languages (e.g. Chichewa), Chinese, Japanese, and Portuguese, which allow — some more freely than others — for null objects with specific interpretation.
Does this sentence sounds good to you, please? It goes clunk to me since I'd expect to see:
There are numbers of typologically distinct languages[…]
or
There is a number of typologically distinct languages[…]
Or is it really acceptable?


Thank you,
Tom
 
  • panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    There are a number .... is correct.
    This chunk, "a number of typologically distinct languages", is plural.

    Think of the phrase "a number of" as meaning the same as "several".
     

    Thomas1

    Senior Member
    polszczyzna warszawska
    There are a number .... is correct.
    This chunk, "a number of typologically distinct languages", is plural.

    Think of the phrase "a number of" as meaning the same as "several".
    Hm... this is strange... please have a look:
    Several typologically distinct languages works fine here because it's an adjective that implies more than one.

    Several of typologically distinct languages works fine too since it (works as a pronoun) indicates that more than one of these languages allow...

    Now
    a number indicates to me a group, a part and there's a which indicates singular

    So would you accept the following:
    Several allow....

    A number allow....

    To me the first one is fine but the second one has something wrong in it. I suppose you wouldn't say a several..., would you?:confused: So where am I wrong? What do you think?


    Tom
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    You need to think of the entire phrase "a number of".
    Usually, where you write "a number of" you could replace it with "several" and both are plural.
    So would you accept the following:
    Several allow....

    A number allow....
    Probably not, because you have now left out the bit about languages.
    Several languages allow ... OK
    A number of languages allow ... OK

    P
     

    modus.irrealis

    Senior Member
    English, Canada
    I agree with panjandrum, and English has many of these constructions like a lot of, a group of, a bunch of, and when you use these with plural nouns to mean "several" they don't make it singular. And a number of is the same. Sometimes I think they're treated as multi-word adjectives instead of their literal sense.

    Also, unlike collective nouns in general, I'm pretty sure this isn't an AE vs. BE difference either.
     

    Thomas1

    Senior Member
    polszczyzna warszawska
    It curious that "a number of xxxx" is plural, "the number of xxxx" is singular.
    Well, I find it curious.
    I guess here lies my confusion. I probably saw mainly the number of which is used with a verb in singular, whereas, a number of requires plurality from a verb, very curious indeed. :) Maybe, it's because the alludes to a particular number that's been meantioned earlier on in the text or is known from the context and this number is treated as an entity. Whereas a is an indicator of indefinite "pluralitness" and so is treated as a synonim of several/many.

    The number of unskilled workers is increasing.= only the unskilled workers
    A number of workers are unskilled.= Many workers (from many branches of industry) are unskilled.

    Does that make sense?


    Tom
     
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