Collective noun

related topics
{language, word, form}
{theory, work, human}
{game, team, player}
{group, member, jewish}
{specie, animal, plant}
{water, park, boat}
{government, party, election}
{math, energy, light}
{war, force, army}
{work, book, publish}
{system, computer, user}

In linguistics, a collective noun is a word used to define a group of objects, where objects can be people, animals, emotions, inanimate things, concepts, or other things. For example, in the phrase "a pride of lions," pride is a collective noun.

Most collective nouns encountered in everyday speech, such as "group," are mundane and are not specific to one kind of constituent object. For example, the terms "group of people," "group of dogs," and "group of ideas" are all correct uses. Others, especially words belonging to the large subset of collective nouns known as terms of venery (words for groups of animals), are specific to one kind of constituent object. For example, "pride" as a term of venery refers to lions, but not to dogs or llamas.

Collective nouns should not be confused with mass nouns, or with the collective grammatical number.


Derivational collectives

Derivation accounts for many collective words. Because derivation is a slower and less productive word formation process than the more overtly syntactical morphological methods, there are fewer collectives formed this way. As with all derived words, derivational collectives often differ semantically from the original words, acquiring new connotations and even new denotations.

The English endings -age and -ade often signify a collective. Sometimes the relationship is easily recognizable: baggage, drainage, blockade. However, even though the etymology is plain to see, the derived words take on quite a special meaning.

German uses the prefix Ge- to create collectives. The root word often undergoes umlaut and suffixation as well as receiving the Ge- prefix. Nearly all nouns created in this way are of neuter gender. Examples include:

  • das Gebirge, "group of mountains," from der Berg, "mountain"
  • das Gepäck, "luggage, baggage" from der Pack, "pack, bundle, pile"
  • das Geflügel, "poultry, fowl (birds)" from late MHG gevlügel(e), under the influence of der Flügel, "wing," from MHG gevügel, from OHG gifugili = collective formation, from fogal, "bird"
  • das Gefieder, "plumage" from die Feder, "feather"

Metonymic merging of grammatical number

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