More plurals in compounds

From Jon Lighter to ADS-L on the 29th, under the heading “hypercorrect pluralization of attributives”, this posting (in its entirety):

(1) CNN is talking about “the Houthis rebels.”

(2) I’ve recently heard “the movies industry.”

(3) Plus (I hope you’re sitting down) “the aircrafts industry.”

Three examples of different sorts (though (2) and (3) are closely related, and (1) is more distantly connected to (2)). There’s a history here on ADS-L, going back at least to 2003. First, some notes on the examples; then a bit of the ADS-L history; then more on plurals in compounds.

The movies industry. This is a straightforward example of a N + N compound (with the second N as head and the first as modifier), where the first N is plural (what I’ll call N1Pl) — an alternative to the movie industry, where the first N is uninflected, though understood with plural reference. The point of my later discussion is that N1Pls come in a variety of types, many of them quite common (and unobjectionable). In fact, I find the N1Pl in (1) unobjectionable.

Houthis rebels. This for Houthi rebels, with Houthi functioning as a (morphologically unmarked) adjective, parallel to the (morphologically marked) adjective Algerian in Algerian rebels. But there is also a nominal use of Houthi, to refer to a Houthi, someone who is Houthi. That means that Houthi rebels looks misleadingly like a N + N compound, and is available to alternate with a N1Pl version: the misanalysis in Houthi rebels. So: a mistake, but an explicable one.

The aircrafts industry. Parallel to the movies industry, but apparently involving a non-standard s-plural of the standardly zero-plural noun aircraft (There were several aircraft parked on the tarmac). Well, it turns out that aircrafts has been on the rise.

From the English Language & Usage Stack Exchange site (“a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts”):

Q: Why does the incorrect plural “aircrafts” seem to be occurring more often?

A: My first reaction to aircrafts was to think it was a typo, but I just checked usage on NGrams…

[with an N-gram showing a considerable rise peaking around 1990]

…which seems to indicate that the “regular” plural form is gradually being taken up. Does this represent a tendency for English speakers to enforce regularity on the language?

The attested examples mostly sound disfluent, and some are from Chinese sources. For example:

Syma Model Aircrafts Industry Co. Ltd: Located in Laimei Industrial Park, Chenghai District, Shantou City, Guangdong, Syma Model Aircrafts Industry is a large-scale enterprise with the ability to design, manufacture and trade. … Today, our products are marketed under the brand name “SYMA”. We have electric coaxial micro helicopter series suitable for beginners. With this, anyone can enjoy the first flight. Our products feature stable performance.

But one commenter on the Stack Exchange site writes:

In today’s (reputedly conservative) Daily Telegraph (13/07/13): “Shares in Boeing took a nosedive on Friday after one of its Dreamliner 787 aircrafts caught fire while parked at Heathrow, closing the airport”

So the usage may be genuinely spreading.

N1Pls on ADS-L. The position of several posters to ADS-L is that all N1Pls are just mistakes: a modifier element simply cannot be inflected like a noun. Lighter refers to them as involving “hypercorrect pluralization of attributives”, and whenever he comes across an N1Pl, he just posts it to the list, often repeating old examples or ones just like old examples. Since 2003 I have posted about the examples, and Language Loggers have posted on the subject, but without any effect. (I no longer post to ADS-L on N1Pls.)

Some of the history. On 12/5/10, a posting of mine beginning with school(s) chief and comment(s) spam, with a replay of  a 12/26/03 posting to ADS-L on plurals in compounds, and of a March 2009 posting to ADS-L with further discussion.

Then on 7/16/12 (emphasis added):

A brief follow-up to my posting of 12/5/10 on plurals in compounds (schools chief / superintendent / administrator, comments spam, jobs market), inspired by a posting to ADS-L by Jon Lighter this morning [with jobs creation]

My earlier posting noted a collection of cases where compounds with Npl first element alternated with compounds with a bare-stem N (interpreted semantically as plural) as first element; alongside the examples cited above are: school chief / superintendent / administratorcomment spamjob market. And so it is with jobs creationjobs creators, and jobs growth.

In fact, the jobs market case in my earlier posting was from Lighter, who took it to be “hypercorrect pluralization of attributives”. I wouldn’t automatically label such things as hypercorrections, but instead treat them as motivated by a desire for more semantic transparency in the form of compounds. In any case, alternations between Npl and bare-stem N are very common in certain precincts in the world of compounds. A few examples, from an enormous number …

Movies industry and its relatives. Back to some recent examples. Plenty of movies industry examples from sources that don’t seem at all semi-literate. For example:

More than ever, the movies industry is dominated by blockbusters and, to many’s dismay, sequels to previous blockbusters. (link)

The Gaming Industry vs The Movies Industry (link)

Film Critic: A Decade Behind the Scenes in the Movies Industry (link)

(There are also, of course, lots of movie industry examples.)

Also a huge number of games industry examples, like these:

The games industry is wrong about kids, gaming and gender (update) (link)

Ways into the games industry (link)

Crunched: has the games industry really stopped exploiting its workforce? (link)

There’s an almost equal number of game industry examples. And about twice as many gaming industry examples, but these seem to be a mix of examples with gaming ‘video gaming’ and gaming ‘gambling’.

Then, having noted the New York Times use of Movies Update as the title of a regular column, I found lots of examples of movies listing and movies list. And of musicals list ‘list of musicals’, where musical list is disfavored, presumably because of the unintended adjectival interpretation ‘list that is musical’ (rather than the nominal interpreation, with a nouning of the adjective).

Finally, an inventory of postings on LLog and this blog on N1Pls:

GP, 12/1/03: Postcard from Vegas 3: Regularly-inflected plurals exclusion? I don’t think so:
activities center

ML, 12/1/03: Activities centers in Paradise and Santa Cruz:

GP, 12/1/03: The rigors of fieldwork trips:
drinks servers

ST, 5/26/04: We have deer and elk and bear and mice around here:
mice-eater vs. ??rats-eater (synthetic compounds)

ML, 6/6/04: Psycholinguistics in the logging industry:
“game animal” plurals

12/5/10: Data points: plurals in compounds 12/5/10

Data points: plurals in compounds 12/5/10

schools chief; comments spam; antiques X (antiques dealer etc.); jobs market

ML, 12/7/11: Complaint(s) Department:

7/16/12: Data points: plurals in compounds 7/16/12:

Data points: plurals in compounds 7/16/12

jobs creation, jobs creators, jobs growth

7/24/12: jobs market:

job(s) market

9/22/12: underfeet:


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