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I'm looking for a word (or small number of words) that is the general term for singularizing or pluralizing a word.

I've thought about "inflection"/"inflect", but inflection encompasses more than just modifying for number. From the Wikipedia page on Inflection:

In linguistic morphology, inflection (or inflexion) is a process of word formation, in which a word is modified to express different grammatical categories such as tense, case, voice, aspect, person, number, gender, mood, animacy, and definiteness.

Is there a word that encompasses both singularize and pluralize that is also more specific than inflection? Or is there a way to make "inflection" more specific, like "numerical/quantity inflection"?

The reason I'm asking is to find a good name for a function (programming) that takes a word and a number and returns the correct version of the word (either singular or plural). Building upon the package Pluralize.

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  • pluralize is to make plural what was singular. Most words are in the singular so we don't have a verb for that. singular/plural words.
    – Lambie
    Commented May 8, 2022 at 22:27
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    Inflect for number. BTW, how do you singularize a noun? Commented May 9, 2022 at 1:48

4 Answers 4

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In programming (your use case), this task would usually be considered determining the correct "plural form," even though the resulting text would be grammatically singular in the n=1 case. GNU gettext follows this convention.

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One can call this operation "setting the plurality of" the word. This implies you are determining whether to make the word singular or plural. ("to set the plurality of", "set the plurality of", "the plurality was/will be set")

In this use case, "SetPlurality" should make it clear to observers what the function does. As a programmer i would think of it as "set plurality to true or false".

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  • I think that you are completely correct, particularly in a programming context. I also like the idea that the function returns a boolean.
    – BoldBen
    Commented Jan 4, 2023 at 9:19
  • You might want to make it extensible to languages which have three numbers (singular, dual, and plural) in which case a binary/boolean choice is inappropriate.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Jan 4, 2023 at 15:12
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I've found that "grammatical number" seems to be the correct general term to encompass both singular and plural (and possibly more like dual) with the right amount of specificity.

From the Wikipedia article on Grammatical Number (emphasis mine):

In linguistics, grammatical number is a grammatical category of nouns, pronouns, adjectives, and verb agreement that expresses count distinctions (such as "one", "two", or "three or more"). English and other languages present number categories of singular or plural, both of which are cited by using the hash sign (#) or by the numero signs "No." and "Nos." respectively. Some languages also have a dual, trial, and paucal number or other arrangements.

For the function, I've gone with toGrammaticalNumber to represent the ideas of "to singular" and "to plural".

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  • Surely 'singularise' means 'make [something, eg a noun, that isn't] singular [in form]. 'Grammatical number' is certainly a hypernym for 'singularity' (= state of being singular) and 'plurality'. But your questions seems to be asking for a verb, rather like 'countify' for 'non-count nouns'. Commented Dec 4, 2020 at 14:42
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I think of "enumerate", which means "establish the number of (something)" in a formal setting. See enumerate 1.1.

Though, I am unsure if this is apt in this case.

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