Determiner-head selection

In a single short editorial (“End of One Scourge”, about the elimination of the cattle disease rinderpest) in the NYT yesterday, two anomalous plurals (boldfaced below):

(1) Rinderpest spreads rapidly and kills nearly every animals it infects.

(2) [Rinderpest and smallpox] share a similar history, since both diseases were among the first to be treated by inoculation in the 18th century. Eradication was also made possible by the fact that neither diseases mutated rapidly…

(Both plurals remain in the on-line version.)

These are surely cutnpaste errors, a result of the editing process. My guess is that an earlier version with a partitive (“every one of the animals”, “neither of the diseases”) was abbreviated, but without changing the plural to the singular required by the determiner (every, neither) when it’s in construction with a noun head (“every animal”, “neither disease”). It’s also possible that (1) resulted from an attempt to change the determiner all (“all animals”), which selects a plural head, to every, but without changing the number of the head.

Both every animals and neither diseases can be googled up. Some of the every animals cases clearly have the syntax of a singular NP:

It just completely disgusts me. I love animals, I think every animals has a place on this earth and to go and kill them just to try to prove you can is an abomination. (link)

Every animals is, in essence, a watery solution inside a not-always-watertight bag of skin. (link)

Maybe there are people out there who simply think that every selects a plural head, while otherwise having singular syntax.

Certainly some non-native speakers think that every is solidly plural, like all, as in this student response to an assignment on Animal Farm on Mrs. Botbyl’s English Blog:

And secondly, they wanted to make their own environment with a point that ‘every animals are equal’ applied. (link)

The quotation from Animal Farm is, of course, “All animals are equal”; the writer of this little essay has given every the full syntax of all. Not a crazy idea, given the similarity in their semantics, but that’s not the way English syntax works.

Something like that reasoning might be going on in the neither diseases examples, though these seem to come from native speakers:

And not to say that neither diseases are without risks but I’d say that HIV has a bigger impact on not only you but other people you would infect if you are not careful. (commenter in a discussion on diabetes vs. HIV)

Welcome ~ when did your Dx change from GBS to CIDP? Neither diseases are easy to deal with but it is do-able as you will read from other ‘family’ members! (commenter on a forum about Guillain-Barré Syndrome and Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy)

Thoroughly plural determiner neither — “neither speakers are” and the like — seems to be reasonably common in informal unedited writing, possibly from analogy with the use of no with plurals (“no diseases/speakers/etc. are”), possibly from the common plural uses of pronominal neither, as in “neither (of them) were willing to talk”.

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