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What is the origin of English plurals and possessives? English plurals look more French plurals, but I am not sure that is where they come from. As for possessives, I don't know where they come from.

  • French plurals are from the accusative case of Latin. I promise you that English’s are not. – tchrist Apr 9 '13 at 22:24
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    By "What is the origin of plurals and possessives?" do you mean (a) What did the pl & poss suffixes sound like in Old English and Proto-Germanic? (b) How did English get to have plural and possessive inflections? (c) Why are the English plural and possessive morphemes identical in form? – John Lawler Apr 9 '13 at 22:52
  • Have you attempted to research this yourself first? You'd likely find more information that way if you know where to look. – 4rkain3 Apr 10 '13 at 0:02
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    Are you somehow thinking that all three of these /əz/ inflections somehow have the same origin — like in he earns versus the sponges versus Bill’s house, or in he sits versus the bats versus Kit’s knits? They certainly do not, so that’s three separate questions. But phonologically they do share in common whether they become /(ə)z/ or /(ə)s/, in that the voicing is determined by the extant voicing of the end of the word the suffix gets applied to. Where have you researched this, and what did you find there? Have you examined the language of Beowulf, which is true Old English? – tchrist Apr 10 '13 at 1:33
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    Thank you. The short answer is that they fell together when most of the other inflections were lost. Many, many Germanic and Indo-European inflections used -s; it was one category of plural noun marker in just about every IE language. Possessive -s, on the other hand, has a very checkered history. And the 3SgPr -s is a Scandinavian loan, replacing original OE -th, which came via Grimm's Law from PIE 3sgPr -t. – John Lawler Apr 10 '13 at 3:05
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The short answer is that they fell together when most of the other inflections were lost.

For the plural, many, many Germanic and Indo-European inflections used -s; it was one category of plural noun marker in just about every IE language. It was the only marker left when the others were elided.

Possessive '-s', on the other hand, has a very checkered history, which I won't touch.

As to the superficially related third person singular verb inflection, the '-s' is a Scandinavian loan, replacing original OE '-th', which came via Grimm's Law from PIE third person singular '-t'.

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