Wednesday, February 24, 2010

"Momses and Dadses"

In rural parts of Costa Rica, people often use a double plural form for certain nouns. That is, they attach an extra plural suffix to a noun where a plural suffix already exists.

To pluralize a word in Spanish you either add an '-s' or an '-es', an 'es' being necessary when the noun ends in a consonant. In Costa Rica I have heard the double plural for 'papases', with an '-s-es' ending.

In this context there is a possible reasonable explanation: If the regular plural form 'papás' refers to one set of parents, 'papases' could conceivably refer to a group of parents.

Regardless of the merits of this armchair etymology, the double plural appears to extend to other nouns whose last syllable is the tonic syllable. For example, I have heard 'mamases' and 'bebeses' (coming from 'bebé'), which contain the double plural, but cannot be rationalized as a group of plural elements.

Double plurals have arisen in other languages, but they usually occur when the former plural suffix becomes improductive. In Spanish, the '-s' and '-es' suffixes are entirely valid standing alone to pluralize their respective nouns, so I don't recommend using the double plural form. But it's sure fun to listen to :)


Anonymous said...

As far as I know, we do not have "papases" "mamases" or "bebeses" in Spain, but we do have "pieses" as an archaic, dialectal, rural or vulgar form for "pies" (feet).

Thomas Carmona said...

That's interesting. 'Pie' also ends with a tonic vowel. The only difference between it and the other examples is that it's a monosyllabic word. I haven't heard it before, but I'm not surprised that you have.

Thanks for your input!

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