I continued building my conlang, and it's time to deal with grammars of nouns. In my conlang, nouns are categorized into three: countable, measurable, and abstract. This question is about countable nouns.

As this conlang heavily takes concepts of mathematics, there are two things this conlang deals seriously with: existence and uniqueness. Those already give three grammatical numbers.

  1. Null: Zero or more.
  2. Existential: One or more.
  3. Unique: Exactly one.

The "null" quantification poses the noun without specifying its number. The "existential" quantification poses that the noun exists, not necessarily singular or plural. The "unique" quantification has effect of specifying a single object; this doesn't mean there uniquely existed the object to specify from the start, and should not be confused with definite articles like "the".

The motivation of the "existential" quantification is like this: For example in mathematics, when we say "They share a vector", we really mean "There exists a vector they share". I thought it'd be good to have a separate quantification for what "a" really means here.

There is another quantification I want to introduce:

  1. Optional: Zero or one.

This states that there is no guarantee that the noun exists, but it'd be unique if it does.

The main question is: Do I need a plural quantification? This doesn't seem to be much used in mathematics. When we say "They share vectors", we really mean "Their vectors coincide". It's not that there are two or more vectors they share, and in my conlang, I'd just say about them coinciding.

Furthermore, the "optional" quantification serves as the negation of the plural quantification, so I can negate it back. Though, I don't see a good English demonstration.

  • 1
    I'm contemplating: "You can share cars" vs "You can share a car". Are you asking if you need plural quantification in the optional case? It sounds like you need a quantifier that excludes plurality, maybe for talking about things that you either have or don't, but rarely have more than one of like a spouse, or a driver's licence, or social security number. I guess your language will be able to concisely convey the idea of having a heart, where it would be medically bad/complicated to have two hearts, but it's conceivable that you could live with no heart, with the aid of a machine.
    – Wyck
    Commented Apr 6, 2023 at 13:36

1 Answer 1


No, you do not. Plenty of natural languages get along fine without a grammatical plural. On any situation where it actually matters, you can just use an explicit numeral.

  • 2
    Yeah, for one example, Japanese famously lacks plural forms in its grammar. There are some ways to indicate a plural, like giving a specific number, adding the equivalent of "some" or "a few", etc. However you don't often need to use such constructions in the language unless it is important to be clear that more than one is being referenced, or for emphasis. Plurality is often just implied by context. Leaving those out generally leaves you with a grammatical sentence with the same basic meaning, but which may not convey quite as much information. Commented Apr 6, 2023 at 13:48
  • Japanese has restricted plurals such as -たち, -ら, -ども as well as reduplication for certain native nouns. I wouldn't say Japanese lacks plural forms in general.
    – jogloran
    Commented Apr 6, 2023 at 16:07

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.