I don't have anything to add on your question, but you have a cool idea and
you got me really curious about how to apply it in more cases, so I hope
you won't object if I ask some other questions. Have you thought at all
about how these different grammatical numbers combine with different kinds
of quantificational constructions, especially ones embedded in more complex
sentences, or with explicit numerals? E.g., maybe 'three N-PL1' means (or
strongly replies) 'exactly three Ns' and 'three N-PL2' means 'at least
three Ns, but I couldn't say exactly how many', or something like that?
Which grammatical number would you use when translating something where
there isn't obviously a specific nontrivial group, like 'If you see any
unicorns, kill them and bring bring me their horns and hides.'? What about
'If John has exactly twelve students, it will be ideal for the group
assignment he's planning.', where the number is definite in context, but
the group might not even exist, so it seems weird to say it's 'known'? I
think it'd be really cool to see what approach you take to these kinds of
On Tue, Jul 21, 2015 at 4:39 AM, Juanma Barranquero <[log in to unmask]>
> Hi everybody.
> (Sort of) first time poster here, though I've been lurking a long time.
> I'm working on my first conlang. Not phonetics, though I know the dictum
> about "phonetics first". Unfortunately, I'm not a linguist (I'm a computer
> guy) and most phonetics here go way over my head, so in that regard I'll
> stick with something simple and easy for Spaniards, as it matches my target
> group (fellow roleplayers, mostly). I can always expand it later (I'll be
> of course open to suggestions of any kind).
> My conlang is not yet named, though I call it Gig for now, as the
> conculture speakers are prototypical humanoid Giants.
> So, I'm working on morphology, syntax, etc. Currently I'm thinking of a
> VSO, fluid-S language, and I'm valiantly resisting the new-conlanger's
> impulse of going down the highly-agglutinative route ;-)
> The question I have is related to plurals.
> So, in Gig, number is a variant of a singular/paucal/plural system. Let's
> call these SG, PL1, PL2.
> Singular (SG) is unmarked. PL1 and PL2 are marked with prefixes.
> PL1 is sort of a paucal, but not used to count few things, but "definite"
> numbers of things. PL2 is used when the number is neither known nor easily
> So, for example: if you're talking about the passengers in a car, you'll
> use PL1. If you're talking about the stars in the sky, or the drops of
> water in the ocean, you'll use PL2. But you would also use PL1 if you're a
> teacher and refer to the number of students in your current class, even if
> they're 20 or 30 or more. Talking about your family would likely use PL1,
> because it can grow or shrink, but usually does so slowly and, in a
> specific point in time, it is a very easily determinable number (you could
> always just enumerate all your family members, for example). Talking about
> Spain's (or the world's) population would always be PL2, because there is
> no way to determine the precise number in any way.
> Choosing between PL1 and PL2 is really a subjective issue related to how
> you perceive the number of items involved. If you're going to fly to Hawaii
> and speak about the passengers that will be with you in the plane, you'll
> use PL2, even if it is a specific number, because you don't know it and
> can't easily determine it. The plane's captain would perhaps use PL1 if he
> knows that the crew + passengers add up to 205 people. On the other hand,
> if you are talking about a plane crash in the news (apologies for the
> morbid example), you'll likely use PL1, even if you don't remember the
> number of people involved, because it is a very definite number, fixed
> forever and likely to be quoted literally in news reports and the like.
> Of course, joke or ironic uses are possible, and perhaps even frequent.
> Using PL1 to talk about a party (insinuating that it was a failure), or PL2
> if you're having a romantic dinner with your partner and you can't get rid
> of an unexpected newcomer (to