Occurrence of nominal plurality

This parameter examines the degree to which nominal plurality is obligatorily marked through grammatical strategies. This can be determined by examining nominative (base form) nouns.

With respect to the obligatory nature of nominal plurality marking, languages fall into one of three types: (1) plurality is not marked, (2) plurality marking is optional, and (3) plurality marking is obligatory. Languages with obligatory plurality marking may feature exceptions to this rule, in which nouns are not marked for plurality or not marked thus in the nominative case. Most commonly, obligatory plurality marking may not apply when nouns are modified by numerals or other quantifiers, or when nouns are used with a generic (non-referential) meaning. Other possible exceptions include nominal possessive constructions. The existence of regular exceptions to obligatory plurality marking is not the same as optional plurality marking.[1] All exceptions should be described in the commentary.

In some languages, obligatory plurality marking may depend on the position of the given noun on the animacy hierarchy. Degree of animacy primarily distinguishes the living (human) from the non­living, with some of nonhuman life classified in the human category and some in the non­living. More specific hierarchies may also exist, such as the following: terms of relation > other people > “higher” animals > “lower” animals > countable inanimate entities > non­countable entities. (If a category is obligatorily marked for plurality, all categories listed to the left of it also fall into this type.)


NoPlmk: Nouns are not marked for plurality.

OptPlmk: Marking of nominal plurality is optional.

OblPlmk: Marking of nominal plurality is obligatory.[2]

OblAnimPlmk: Marking of nominal plurality is obligatory based on degree of animacy.[3]

[1] If the marking of nominal plurality is optional in given syntactic environments, this should be described in the commentary.

[2] If any regular exceptions apply, they should be noted in the commentary.

[3] A detailed description of the animacy hierarchy and its implications for plurality marking should be included in the commentary.