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Re: ambo, duo, eorundem, haec & quae

"Robert C. Lyons" wrote:

> You wrote:
> > My challenge to find a neuter plural in Greek or Latin whose nominative does
> > not end in -a still stands, but let's take it off the list. Send me any
> > findings privately, and we can then post anything which appears to be this
> > elusive exception.
> So far, I've found the following:
>  ambo: both
>  duo: two
>  eorundem: the same (the neuter singular is "idem")
>  haec: these (the neuter singular is "hic", which means 'this')
>  quae: which (the neuter singular is "qui")

Hi Bob.

Hmmm. Interesting edge cases, all of them.

Ambo and duo are not, in fact, plurals. These are the (I believe, only two)
survivors of the *dual* number in Latin inflection. Indo-European had
(conjecturally, of course) three numbers--singular, dual, and plural--and the
dual is common in both Greek and Sanskrit.

Eorundem looks like the genitive, rather than the nominative, plural. (The n,
where m would be expected, is a consonantal metathesis--to use the word with
which Rick Jelliffe started all of this last week--for euphony.) This word is
the personal pronoun (is, ea , id) with the suffix -dem. The neuter nominative
plural of the personal pronoun is ea--ending in -a as would be expected. Of
course, when we then stick the -dem suffix on it, and get eadem, it does no
longer end in -a in the neuter nominative plural; so yes, you have found an
exception here, but because the suffix always follows the inflected ending it is
a *very* marginal case.

The demonstrative and relative pronouns, which you correctly cite as exceptions,
are in fact exceptions throughout their declension. So here you have two
winners. I was not thinking of pronouns (and certainly not of the predictably
irregular ones), of course, but only of nouns and adjectives. However, I did
phrase the challenge in stark terms of 'every' neuter plural, so you have
clearly found the exceptions.

My original point when Sean McGrath suggested 'desiderata' was that neuter
plural perfect passive participles like that could be constructed from literally
thousands of Latin verbs with roots ending in -t, thereby giving a plural ending
in -ta, which was what Rick Jelliffe had originally asked for examples of. This
is something very different from the class of Greek nouns which follow the
pattern of schema/schemata. In making my blanket statement I was thinking of
adjectives (or participles) on the one hand, contrasted with nouns on the other,
and I never considered pronouns--which your examples indicate I should have.

Now of course the discussion has fallen to speculation on the plural of enema,
which is not in fact a 'real' Greek noun (it occurs in Galen, as one would
expect of a medical term). Enema ('something sent in') is the same sort of
participle in Greek as 'desideratum' is in Latin and does form its plural in
-ata. So now, in addition to Latin participles and Greek nouns which show a -ta
plural ending, we have a Greek participle and presumably the possibility of many
others which might be formed on the same pattern. Surely (?) at this point we
can put to rest Rick's question of whether there are example of nouns, usable in
English, whose plurals end in -ta. Perhaps we can also put to rest the more
pointed question of whether 'schemas' or 'schemata' is to be used as the plural,
by refusing to state a preference.

Best regards,