"I take it that you haven't finished the book." or "I take it that you haven't finished the book?"
I have the same question involving "I don't suppose..."
"I don't suppose you've made dinner?" or "I don't suppose you've made dinner."
What are some interesting pluralia tantum in various languages?
Those are words that only exist in the plural and have no singular.
Common cases are words for things that have two parts, such as “glasses/spectacles”, “trousers/pants”, and “scissors” in English, or for words that describe collections of something, such as “clothes”, “victuals”, “news”, “Middle Ages” in English or “Ferien” (school holidays) or “Möbel” (furniture) in German. German also has a few for specific collections of people, such as Geschwister “siblings”, Eltern “parents”, and Leute “people”. And then there are what might be called “collections of behaviour”, such as “(good, bad, etc.) manners” in English or “Faxen” (nonsense, practical jokes, silliness, antics). And some diseases, perhaps considered as a collection of symptomatic marks: “measles, pox [from pocks]”.
But while learning a bit of Slovak for a week’s holiday there, I’ve come across a few interesting cases—at least, interesting from the point of view of English or German (my native languages).
Besides the unexceptional nohavice “trousers”, there’s also noviny “newspaper” and dejiny “history”, which I suppose kind of fall under the “collection” sense in the way that English “news” does, and the even more unexpected dvere “door”.
Do you have interesting examples from other languages, especially ones that are not obviously plural or collective in meaning?
I’m not even sure how to count such Slovak nouns, in particular the doors and newspapers.
How do various languages do it?
In English, for example, you typically have to quantify such nouns, similar to how mass nouns are treated: you have “one pair, two pairs of trousers, scissors” in much the same way you have “one cup (drop, botttle, litre, …) of water, rice, …”.
Wikipedia says that Polish uses a regular number for “one”, though declined with a plural ending (jedne okulary “one pair of glasses”). (An adjective “one” with a plural ending sounds unusual! Though I’ve seen that in Spanish, where I think unos, unas means something like “several, a few”.) And that larger quantities have special collective numerals: troje drzwi “three doors”, pięcioro skrzypiec “five violins”, which I suppose are literally something like “a threesome of doors, a fivesome of violins”.
And for German, you typically have to form a composite noun, slightly similar to the English way: ein Elternteil “one parents-part = one parent”, ein Möbelstück “one furniture-piece = one piece of furniture”, ein Ferientag “one school-holidays-day = one day of school holidays”.
What do the languages you are familiar with do?
Related is also the use of grammatically plural city names. English and German has this for countries (e.g. the Netherlands/die Niederlande; the United States/die Vereinigten Staaten), island groups (e.g. the Aleutians/die Aleuten; the Seychelles/die Seychellen) or mountain ranges (e.g. the Alps/die Alpen; the Andes/die Anden), but not for cities. But I’ve come across this in other languages, such as Σέρρες Serres, Τρίκαλα Trikala, or Ιωάννινα Ioannina in Greek or Košice in Slovak.
I wonder how that kind of thing came about? With countries, it’s usually a collection of states; with island groups, it’s a collection of islands; and with mountain ranges, a collection of mountains. So the plural there is easily understandable. But how does a city acquire a plural noun? Is it considered a collection of boroughs? Or is this something just as arbitrary as gender assignment for nouns, and “just happens”?
Do you have examples from other countries and/or languages? (Does Russian have this, for example? Does English?!)