software development

The initial find, by Megan O’Neil and me a little while ago, while we were looking for something totally different:

Besides VirtualBox, there are in fact quite a number of virtualization software in the market such as VMware Workstation, Microsoft’s Windows Virtual PC (for Win7) and Virtual PC 2007 (for Vista or XP).

In the market, there are a lot of software that claims itself capable of boosting the PC performance. (link)

It takes several steps to get to these two usages for software.

The background: the lexeme SOFTWARE is a M (often called “mass”, or sometimes “uncountable”, “non-countable”, or “noun-count”) noun; in most uses — note the qualification — it is SG-only (*softwares), takes the determiners characteristic of M nouns (much software, for instance), and rejects the determiners characteristic of C (often called “count(able)”) nouns (*many software, *a software).

But things are more complicated than that. There are schemes for using C nouns as M and M nouns as C (some discussion in the section on C~M conversions here). In particular, “functional collective” M nouns like furniture, mail, luggage, change, jewelry, and ammunition (discussion here) are subject to “countification”, conversion to C nouns denoting individuals in the collectivity. (Discussion of such countifications — well-attested for the lexemes E-MAIL and SPAM, now reported for PORN, PORNO, and SLANG — here. I have since added FOLKLORE to this list, and, in a later posting, HARDWARE in the both the sexual and the computer sense, and, in still a later posting, EXPRESSIVE MATERIAL.)

The virtue of individuating countification is that it provides a way of referring to a collectivity as a whole (via the M noun) and to the individuals in the collectivity (via the C noun, meaning roughly ‘a piece of’: a spam ‘a piece of spam’, porns ‘pieces of porn’).

Countifying SOFTWARE this way gives us things like a software ‘a piece of software’ and softwares ‘pieces of software’. Huge number of attestations of these. First a software:

Most of the time having the latest version of a software is a good thing. (link)

If a software is helpful in that process, fine. If not, well… (link)

Yeah i agree writing a software is more difficult than writing a book. Because writing a book needs creative mind but writing a software needs high logic. (link)

Then softwares:

Welcome to KC Softwares (link)

sometimes I use free online proxy tools, but most of the time, I like using free proxy softwares, since they are faster and free of ADs. (link)

Top 5 Online Billing Softwares to Turn Your Small Business Into Global Success (link)

A Complete Review of Report Writing Software and Tools

A Complete Guide to Ebook Writing and Creating Softwares (link) [note M and C uses together]

All softwares at are free: you can redistribute them and/or modify them under the terms of the GNU General Public License as published by the Free Software Foundation, either version 3 of the License, or (at your option) any later version. (link)

Download thousand of softwares for windows & Mobile. Antivirus, Spyware, Browsers, File Sharing, Business Software, Communication, Drivers, Graphic Designing Software, Internet Software, MP3 Player, Video Player, iTunes & iPod Software. (link)

Countification is step 1. Once we have SOFTWARE as a C noun, we can go on to step 2: supplying this noun with a zero-PL, identical to the SG (parallel to this development for SPAM). This is also amply attested; here are a fair number of examples, with contexts clearly indicating that the form software in them is PL:

DCM: Detect presence of software that are not allowed (link)

Software that are incompatible with Google Chrome

Google employee has posted a list of softwares that are seemingly not compatible with Google Chrome. (link)

In this segment, there are two charting software that are head and shoulders above the rest of the competition. (link)

Are their any registry cleaning software that are virus and spyware free? (link)

That’s the reason, in this article, we are compiling a list of those photo editing software that are easy to use, effective and don’t cost a penny. (link)

there are number of software that are available on the online markets and websites and these software are increasing in number day by day. (link)

Tier 2 – this tier contains software that are supplements to the software listed under tier 1

Tier 3 – this tier contains software that goes above and beyond the protection an average user will need. The software in tier 3 are fairly unique in the sense that they don’t really overlap in functionality with the software in tier 1 and tier 2 but rather provide a unique aspect of protection. (link) [again, note C — here, C PL — and M nouns in the same passage]

And now back to the original example, for step 3. The first sentence in it has “there are … quite a number of virtualization software …”, which has a straightforward zero-PL occurrence of software (determining PL number on the verb). But the second sentence shows split syntax, in “there are a lot of software that claims itself …”: software determines PL number in the main clause but SG number (and the SG reflexive itself rather than themselves) in the relative clause. This is like the examples above that have C PL and M SG uses in close proximity, except that now one occurrence of SOFTWARE serves as both of these in a single sentence — a kind of number zeugma, probably the result of shifting constructions in mid-sentence. So, a kind of error, but a nice illustration of the ambiguity between C PL and M SG software.

(I’m not sure whether countified SOFTWARE should be treated as standard within some community of speakers, but, like countified SPAM and E-MAIL, which probably should be, it is very frequent.)

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