I am trying to find out why sheep has the plural sheep. I have found different explanations, such as, "it is because they were seen as uncountable, as in 'a herd of sheep'", "because it comes from German, which does not have the plural 's'" and that it is because it is a neutral Old English noun which does not change in the plural. Does anyone have the right explanation?
As the Oxford English Dictionary explains, 'The prehistoric plural *skǣpu normally lost its final vowel in Old English, so that nominative and accusative singular and plural became identical.'
Goose comes from an ancient Germanic word that underwent a process called "mutation" or "umlaut". When it was made plural, an /i/ or /j/ sound was added, causing the tongue to rise in preparation for making that sound, and changing the "oo" to "ee". Foot/feet and tooth/teeth show this same result. However, these changes took place thousands of years ago.
Moose is a Native American word, added to the word stock of the English language during the past four hundred years. By that time plurals were created in English simply by adding an -s or, in this case, when we are speaking of an animal used for food (deer/deer, sheep/sheep, fish/fish), no inflection at all in the plural.
protected by Jasper Loy Jul 11 '12 at 11:39
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