Author Topic: Thanks  (Read 5033 times)

Offline freknu

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Thanks
« on: January 21, 2014, 04:15:43 AM »
Is there any particular reason why "thanks" is always plural?

Offline Daniel

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Re: Thanks
« Reply #1 on: January 21, 2014, 07:19:03 AM »
Spanish "gracias" also is plural, I think (compared to sg. gracia 'grace'). German Danke also seems plural.

I really don't know why though. And it's not found everywhere-- Swedish 'tack' isn't plural, right? Can it be pluralized?

I'd guess this has something to do with the similarities between mass nouns and plurals, because 'thanks' aren't often counted/singular -- "I'll give you one thank if you help me."*

(*Actually that makes me think about something like facebook where you can count "likes" or give a "like". I could imagine giving someone one "thank" on a service like that, where you are really counting. Compare that to normal usage of "likes" in idioms like "We don't want the likes of you here!", clearly "likes" is a plural form used as a mass noun, where "like" would be odd and instead replaced with an overtly mass form like "likeness".)


Another interesting question to ask is whether it actually is plural in any relevant sense. It's not like it's really strongly nominal anyway. Usually it's just an interjection, which can sometimes be used as an event: "I gave my thanks" but also consider "I let out an ewww at the sight of the food!"
Oddly enough, it doesn't seem strongly plural in agreement either:
?All of the thanks were kind.
?The thanks was sincere, I promise!
It can be used objectively but then there's no agreement. It also isn't usually referential:
I showed my thanks.
?We appreciated the thanks.
*We appreciated that/those thanks.
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Offline freknu

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Re: Thanks
« Reply #2 on: January 21, 2014, 07:33:28 AM »
As I understand it, Swedish "tack" is singular only, meaning "thanks" or "thanking". I don't think you can say "I gave you many thanks" either.

When it comes to my dialect I'm unsure, but at least Icelandic and Faroese still preserve the inflection. There is the Swedish idiom "tackar och bockar" (thanks and bows), but I don't think the old plural exists outside of idiomatic use.

The analysis of it as strictly an interjection seems interesting and plausible. Most other English interjections don't inflect, although words like "what", "oh", "ah", probably can be plural.

The thanks function here on this forum is actually what made me think of this :)

(EDIT)

German "Dank" is also singular only, and might be why it also is singular only in Swedish, Danish, and Norwegian.
« Last Edit: January 21, 2014, 12:29:25 PM by freknu »

Offline Daniel

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Re: Thanks
« Reply #3 on: January 21, 2014, 09:15:24 AM »
Quote
The thanks function here on this forum is actually what made me think of this
Here it is (probably) an imperative form (an odd usage, found most often as "search", etc.)

For German, what about Danke then? Does that show a distinction for the interjection and noun? Or is that not an -e for plural but for a case?
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Offline lx

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Re: Thanks
« Reply #4 on: January 21, 2014, 09:54:21 AM »
Quote
As I understand it, Swedish "tack" is singular only, meaning "thanks" or "thanking". I don't think you can say "I have you many thanks" either.
But don't you say tusen tack in Swedish (like the Norwegians)?
That's a thousand thanks, no?

Offline Daniel

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Re: Thanks
« Reply #5 on: January 21, 2014, 11:04:01 AM »
There's also "many thanks" and other expressions that aren't especially common in English but seem grammatically appropriate. (Also grazie mille 'thousand thanks' in Italian which looks plural to me.)
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Offline freknu

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Re: Thanks
« Reply #6 on: January 21, 2014, 12:28:52 PM »
Quote
As I understand it, Swedish "tack" is singular only, meaning "thanks" or "thanking". I don't think you can say "I gave you many thanks" either.
But don't you say tusen tack in Swedish (like the Norwegians)?
That's a thousand thanks, no?

Aha! Yes you do!

Based on that it would seem to behave like a neuter noun, even though it is cited as having no plural.

For German, what about Danke then? Does that show a distinction for the interjection and noun? Or is that not an -e for plural but for a case?

The singular "Dank" seems to be the noun and the plural "danke" the interjection.

Offline Daniel

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Re: Thanks
« Reply #7 on: January 21, 2014, 06:13:38 PM »
Quote
behave like a neuter noun
plural, mass, neuter, generic, rarely referential/definite, etc.
I sense a pattern!
(This is probably leading to the answer to the "why" question, although I don't yet know what that answer is.)

Quote
The singular "Dank" seems to be the noun and the plural "danke" the interjection.
Right, but why the -e in the interjection? Is it historically a plural?

Let's see what LEO has to say...
http://dict.leo.org/ende/index_de.html#/search=Dank&searchLoc=1&resultOrder=basic&multiwordShowSingle=on
If that link doesn't work:
Quote
thanks = der Dank; kein Plural
So it's masculine and singular, without a plural form.
I believe that most often -e plurals are feminine, so that's looking a little unlikely.

Possibilities:
1. It's a relatively rare -e masculine plural, no longer used.
[Or it changed from feminine to masculine after usage shifts? 'Dank' is a new form, and the older one was lost?]
2. It's a case ending, maybe dative?
3. It's, for lack of a technical term of more specific analysis, an interjection suffix.

I wonder about "gern" and "gerne". I don't really know the differences in the usage of those words, but I do remember wondering about it. Essentially I think "gern" is an adverb that modifies verb phrases (it usually translates as 'like' but means, literally, something more along the lines of "likingly" or "happily" or "pleasedly"), while "gerne" is used as something like "Do you want to go? / Happily/sure!" I wouldn't be surprised at all of Dank/Danke are the same thing.

Is Danke always capitalized? It obviously would usually be a full sentence (so in English "Ouch" seems to always be capitalized). But if it's not, perhaps "I said thanks", would it be capitalized like a noun?
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Offline freknu

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Re: Thanks
« Reply #8 on: January 22, 2014, 12:09:54 PM »
"Dank" is a noun and thus capitalised, "danke" is an interjection and thus not capitalised.

The PG terms are reconstructed as feminine "*þankō" or masculine "*þankaz". The masculine seems to be for West Germanic and feminine for North Germanic, although OE. does have "þonk" and Old Frisian "thonk".

As for "gern/gerne", that could be remnants of strong/weak adjectival inflection.