Plurals of Nouns - Saik'uz Dialect

Most Dakelh nouns do not have distinct singular and plural forms. How many items are under discussion may be inferred from context or may be specified by using a number or quantifier; otherwise, it remains ambiguous. With very limited exceptions, only nouns denoting human beings and dogs have distinct plural forms.

The most common way of forming the plural is by adding the suffix /-ne/. Thus, we have dune "man", dunene "men", dakelh "Dakelh person", dakelhne "Dakelh people".

Nouns derived from verbs by adding the suffixes /-un/ or /-a/ form their plurals by replacing /-un/ with /-ne/. Thus we have hodulh'eh-un "teacher", hodulh'eh-ne "teachers", nudaih-a "dancer", nudaih-ne "dancers".

A smaller but nonetheless considerable number of nouns take the plural suffix /-ke/, e.g. lhi "dog", lhike "dogs", 'at "wife", 'atke "wives". This is the usual way of making the plural of kinship terms, e.g. neloo "our mother", nelooke "our mothers". The plural suffix /-ne/ is occasionally heard on kinship terms, but the suffix /-ke/ is more widely used and generally considered to be more correct. The plural of "dog" is invariably lhike, never lhine.

In addition, there are a handful of nouns with irregular plurals:

chilhchilhukeyoung man
t'ett'edukooyoung woman

The plural of a noun ending in one of the suffixes /-yaz/ "little", /-cho/ "big", or /ti/ "big" is formed by making the plural of the underlying noun and adding the suffix to the plural form. Thus we have duneyaz "boy", duneneyaz "boys", dunecho "adult", dunenecho "adults", lhiyaz "puppy" lhikeyaz "puppies", duneti "old man", duneneti "old men", ts'ekeyaz "girl", ts'ekooyaz "girls".

The exceptions to the statement that only nouns denoting human beings and dogs have disinct plurals are all nouns derived from verbs. The form of the underlying verb may vary with number in such a way as to create distinct number forms for the derived noun.

Even if a noun posesses a plural form, it is not necessary for it to take on the plural form in order to have a plural meaning. Indeed, there is a strong tendancy to avoid overt marking of the plural if plurality is indicated in other ways, in particular, by an immediately following possessed noun. For example, the full form of "Dakelh language" is dakelhne hubughunek, literally "the words of the Dakelh people". Here dakelhne consists of dakelh "Dakelh person" with the plural suffix -ne, and hubughunek is the third person plural possessed form of khunek "words". The plurality of the possessor is indicated by the use of the third person duo-plural possessive prefix hubu instead of the third person singular oo. The form dakelh hubughunek, in which dakelh is not overtly plural-marked, is much preferred.