Nominal Number Morphology

This is the first of two sections on the internal structure of nouns. This first section covers number morphology, the closest that Skerre nouns have to inflectional morphology. The next section covers the more intricate derivational morphology.

A caveat: noun morphology carries less of a functional load than verbal morphology, because noun stems may be used as nouns in Skerre without further inflection, and no morphology is obligatory on all noun stems. In fact, quite a few nouns in Skerre lack any morphology, and they will receive no comment here. Their integration into larger constructions (as well as the integration of the complex nouns to be discussed in this and the next section) is via multiword expressions that will be discussed later in this grammar.

This section is organized around the following topics:


The semantic effect of adding a plural affix is the resulting word denotes a multi-element set of the entity denoted by the base noun. All human or animal denoting nouns can take plurals; for inanimates, it varies. Usually the more animate-like and differentiable entities can be pluralized (see some of the examples further below). Abstract nouns (like weetaro, information, news) cannot be pluralized.

Morphologically, the plural (PL) is formed in one of four ways: with a reduplicated prefix, with the prefix sa-, with the prefix tin-, or with the prefix haa-, each to be discussed in-depth below.

Plural by Reduplication

Reduplication is a morphological process where a reduplicant, an affix whose phonetic content is identical to segments that make up the base, is prefixed to the base. In all cases, the Skerre reduplicant for forming plural nouns has the shape of (C)V:, matching the particular (consonant-)vowel sequence at the left-edge of the base.

Reduplication in Nouns Beginning with a Single Consonant

In nouns that begin a single consonant and a short vowel, the reduplicant has the shape of CV:, with lengthening of the vowel. Examples of this type are shown below:

singular plural Gloss
kek keekek son
yak yaayak father
riyos riiriyos person
kinta kiikinta bird
histi hiihisti possessed person
tsique tsiitsique deer

As the final example, tsique, deer, shows, ts behaves as single consonants for the purposes of reduplication (qu does this, too).

In nouns beginning with CV:, the reduplicant is exactly identical to the base's first syllable, as shown below:

singular plural Gloss
naahi naanaahi stomach
teera teeteera moose

In monosyllabic words ending in a long vowel, the reduplicant is the same as the whole word. Thought this looks like total reduplication, it is, in fact, just a specific case of the general reduplicant patterns discussed above. Some examples:

singular plural Gloss
see seesee porcupine
tsii tsiitsii* eye
*This plural means eyes detached from the body. See below for the usual plural of eye.

Reduplication with Vowel-Initial Nouns

With vowel initial words (which only rarely reduplicate), the reduplicant shape is V:, with the usual hiatus resolution strategies. Thus, the following:

singular plural Gloss
ana aa’ana mother
ekori eeyekori bear

Reduplication with Initial Clusters

Finally, what is the pattern when a noun begins with a consonant cluster? Recall that all nouns that begin with a consonant cluster are ones that begin with a prefix + consonant-initial stem. In reduplication, this initial prefix is ignored. The reduplicant must be identical to the first part of the stem, and the reduplicant is prefixed to the stem. Thus, if we consider the stem the head, then reduplication can be said to be head-inflection. Some examples:

singular plural Gloss
staset staataset companion
snasi snaanasi thief
sritiyar sriiritiyar teacher

In a few cases, this kind of reduplication leads to cases of "overapplication," where the phonological process at the prefix + stem juncture occurs both in the stem and in the reduplicant. Such an example is:

singular   plural   Gloss
syas [Sas] syaasyas [Sa:Sas] giver

Plural by the Prefix Sa-

While the above shows the most productive pattern for words with initial consonant clusters, there is another pluralization pattern that a few words with initial consonant cluster follow. In this pattern, the plural prefix is simply sa-. Some examples:

singular plural Gloss
steyan sasteyan healer, doctor
skani saskani leader
steras sasteras trainer, instructor

This prefix is historically derived from a reduplication pattern that has been obscured over time; synchronically, it is just another prefix, akin to the ones I will discuss below. However, the history surrounding it means it is not productive today, and is restricted to appear before s-stop clusters, due to the phonotactic constraints that existed when the pattern arose.

Plural by the Prefix Tin-

Some words, however, do not reduplicate to form their plurals (not even vestigially). This includes most vowel-initial words and a few lexical exceptions. The following are examples, exempifying both of these types:

singular plural Gloss
itor tinitor animal (Vowel-initial)
arakir tinarakir priest(Vowel-initial)
wiso tiniso group (Lexical Exception)

For a few roots, reduplication and tin- affixation create doublets with slightly different meanings as in:

singular redupulicative plural affix plural
towar tootowar, rivers (any multiplicity of river) tintowar, river system (a particular group of rivers)
wirak wiiwirak, mountains (any multiplicity of mountain) tinirak, mountain range

Plural by the Prefix Haa-

A few plurals are formed with the prefix haa-. This is the pluralization strategy for symmetrical body parts. Some examples:

singular plural Gloss
tsii haatsii eye
hon haahon ear
kihan haakihan arm
yan haayan hand
at haa’at knee

This prefix likely had its historical origin as a dual marker. Akin to the examples discussed above with tin-, most of the above words also have a regular reduplication, which refers to multiplicity of that body part detached from its host (as illustrated by tsiitsii, eyes above).

Forward to Section 8: Noun Formation
Back to Section 6: Orthography
The Main Grammar Page