Pluralia Tantum in Dairwueh, Sargaĺk and Bryatesle

November 13th, 2021

There are reasons to think Proto-BDS had pluralia tantum. However, the languages that have emerged out of it have done some interesting distinct things with them.

0. Pluralia Tantum that go back to PBDS

Although all descendant languages have developed new pluralia tantum since then, a few can be reconstructed as far back as then:

*śigdir - stars
*lixtan - any structure made from spokes
*t'undan - waves
*xajir - itching, spots
*mit'san - freckles, spots
*p'arir - mist, smoke
*t'ik'rir - fur
*t'igdar - a catamaran-style type of boat

Some cultural notes: Proto-BDS thought seems to have thought that every star consists of multiple entities, and that talking about them as agglomerates made the most sense. In Bryatesle, Dairwueh and Sargaĺk stories of encountering a shooting star generally include rather "plural" notions. It is conceivable that the origin goes back to an even earlier verb *śig, signifying 'flicker, flutter'. In this sense, even one star is "the flickers". It is also possible that the Sargalk word t'iśkɨl  - butterfly -, the Bryatesle rysih - shake, quake -, and Dairwueh sidzi - flap, slowly fall by sideways motions (like a leaf)-  originate with this verb as well.

1. Sargaĺk

In Sargaĺk, there are dialectal differences in how these are handled. In southern varieties, just set the number 'one' before them to specify that you are talking about one. The southern variety has originally had the same system as the northern and western varieties, but has simplified it a bit.

dər śixs-air - one stars.

In northern and western varieties, 'one' is further inflected with a plural congruence marker

dəy-air śixs-air : one_s star_s

the example is from a dialect that dissimilates dər-air into dəy-air

With a few other words, such as 'which', demonstratives, etc, there is a double marking: a plural marker followed by a singular marker. Far western dialects, however, just have it be in plural, followed by 'one' in plural, and finally by the word itself.

Eastern Sargaĺk has created singular forms for most non-pairwise pluralia tantum, and for the pairwise ones, "pair" - mihyor - is the singularizer. There is one further exception to this, lixtan's reflex yuśtan, which has the singularizer miśrik. A few words retain their plural morpheme as part of the root.

2. Dairwueh

Dairwueh has some lexical quirks in the use of adjective and verbal congruence, and may demand normally singular adjective stems with plural markers for these nouns, and the same holds for verbs. Non-nominative cases for some pluralia tantum are singularia tantum instead, and some speakers prefer to use singular congruence markers for these as well. For some speakers, congruence can be used to distinguish a singular referent from a plural referent.

3. Bryatesle

Standard Bryatesle uses counters to turn them into singulars; in many ways, they resemble mass nouns in Bryatesle, and in fact, the plural morphemes sometimes appear on new mass nouns. The syntactical differences between apparently plural mass nouns and pluralia tantum are that mass nouns always take some type of counter-like noun to enable numbers or certain other quantifiers, PTs do not require that for numbers larger than one and PTs always take plural congruence on verbs regardless of actual number, mass nouns always take singular congruence.

The two faces of ke- compounds

November 7th, 2021

There's an additional bit of preparation we need before diving into that thorough discussion of nominalization, relativization and focus that I keep promising: an understanding of the formative ke-.

This particle, by default carrying interrogative meaning, can be productively preposed to a second particle to form compounds that look and behave like predicates. There has traditionally been a sharp divide between two classes of resultant forms, though, depending on whether the second particle is an article (a, ka, le, and most recently u) or not.

1. When added to an article, ke- forms an interrogative pronoun. These solicit a response of the type indicated by the article itself, so:

kea = indefinite, "what?"
keka = definite, "who/which one?"
keu = definite plural, "who all, which ones?"
kele = name, "what is the name?"

2. When added to any other kind of particle, however, these lose interrogative force and instead give us a sort of meta-description of the meaning of that particle. There are lots of these, so for example:

kene = location
kela = destination
keme = attribute
kemo = manner
kehe = time (at which something occurs), moment
kepe = subject, topic, respect, regard
kelo = reason, cause
kesi = that which went before, past
kepi = amount, quantity
kecu = that which will be, future
kema = that which is ongoing; current?
kete = possibility
keki = necessity
kelu = a desire
kena = that which is not; negative?
keha = condition (that which "ifs")

These should all be spelled out and explained at some point -- I was sure I wrote a post about this back in the 20-teens, but it would appear I never got around to it! And it would be good to do this before I accidentally assign those roots to other meanings (see point 5 below).

3. In one case the resultant form has been modified a bit:

kia = affirmative (not keia which is of an inadmissible form for a predicate; curiously this was not an intentional choice, but an accident based loosely on Finnish kyllä "certainly"!)

4. Forms with other specifiers would have no identifiable meaning and so aren't included in this set: keko, kehu, kepo, keti, keto.

5. Note that there are other words of this apparent form which in fact are their own bisyllabic roots:

keli "language"
kevi "light in weight"

This was not planned out particularly well, and in fact keli could and really should also mean "hypothetical" and kevi "a command." I'm not sure what to do about this...either we could have homonyms in a breathtaking change of allegiance in favor of Koa's rights as an artlang, or maybe those roots need to be reconsidered. I honestly don't love keli -- it somehow utterly fails to capture what I love about Finnish kieli -- and kevi could become kevu. Or something. OR I could create different roots for the meanings that either or both of these "should" have with the ke- formative: I think the "command" root should start with transitive verbal meaning, for one, rather than "that which is commanded."

Incidentally, I don't think I've ever mentioned out loud just how many Koa roots are in fact unapologetically borrowed from Finnish. Paa "head," kume "ten," sata "hundred," tuha "thousand," ela "live," kusu "ask," nuku "sleep," poi "away," voi "be able," tule "come," mene "go," lahe "leave," soi "sound, ring," iso "big," suli "great," sini "blue," puna "red," lepa "bread," vai "butter," vate "cloth," puhu "speak," sano "say," hulu "crazy," ike "cry," pime "dark," valo "light," pai "day," suva "deep," vake "difficult," vami "ready," ovi "door," ava "open," asu "dwell," suo "eat," vela "even," paha "evil," pele "family," vaha "few," luta "find," kala "fish," hisi "mist," uto "foreign," uno "forget," ana "give," hei "hello," moi "goodbye," vihe "green," sivu "leaf," pusu "gun," kova "hard," kulu "hear," apu "help," koke "high," maki "hill," koto "home," talo "house," asi "idea," tapa "kill," maa "land," keli "language," vime "last," liu "lead," opi "learn," kile "write," vesi "liquid," nae "see," hake "look for," mata "low," kone "machine," and on and on. In some cases the form or meaning has obviously been adapted. I'm not sure why, but something about Finnish phonology really lends itself to the vibe I've been going for with Koa from the beginning.

ANYWAY, it occurred to me the other day that if kea literally breaks down to ke a -- in other words, "which indefinite thing beginning with a?" -- is it possible that non-article compounds should have interrogative force as well? Couldn't kene mean "which phrase beginning with ne," i.e. "where?" Suddenly a whole cast of what Esperanto might call correlatives effortlessly unfolds:

kene - tine - tone = where - here - there
kela - tila - tola = whither - hither - thither
kehe - tihe - tohe = when - now - then
kemo - timo - tomo = how - like this - like that
kelo - tilo - tolo = why - for this reason - for that reason
kepi - tipi - topi = how much - this much - that much

For a moment it seemed like, despite the fact that I kind of hate nearly every single one of those forms with those meanings on aesthetic grounds, it may be a logical necessity to allow this. In other words, "why" would also mean "reason," as in "let me tell you about the how and why." It felt inelegant and unappealing, but maybe important in the service of internal consistency.

But thankfully for my aesthetic sensibilities, these correlatives weren't meant to be. The reason it works with kea - tia - toa and friends is that the resultant pronouns have a semantic that allows them to be integrated into syntax just like any other predicate (albeit with the article integrated inside of itself, so to speak). We can say

ni na suo toa
1SG NEG eat that
"I didn't eat that" exactly the same way we can say

ni na suo lepa
1SG NEG eat bread
"I didn't eat bread"

But the compounds with other particle types would produce something that otherwise does not exist as a category anywhere in Koa: adverbials! If one said

ni si asu tone
1SG ANT dwell 'there'
"I used to live there" order to parse it correctly, they would have to know that tone should not be interpreted according to the ordinary rules of Koa: that is, not as a direct object or a modifier, as one predicate following another. To allow these would be to introduce a genuine lexical class division among predicates into the language for the first time, and a completely externally unidentifiable one at that. Ick. Might as well hang it all up and start over if I'm going to throw out the most basic guiding light of the language. It has to be, as it always has been,

ni si asu ne toa
1SG ANT dwell LOC that
"I used to live there"

So then, feeling pretty solid about the system of ke- compounds and why things mean what they do, let's remember all those words under point 2 above (kene "location," kemo "manner," and so on), because they're going to be critical when we start trying to nominalize more complex clauses.

P.S. I'm feeling less and less sure about u as a plural definite article. I realized today that this would make "everyone" have to be pou instead of poka, which makes me sad, but beyond that I'm having some trouble being convinced that it feels very much like Koa. No final decisions but that's where I'm at. Note that if we keep it, we'll have series like this: poa "everything," poka "all of it," pou "everyone."

Kion fari?

November 6th, 2021

A small break in the action: "what to do?"

This has been irritating me of late, because it's such a simple little structure in the languages I know best, but I could not figure out how to express it in Koa. First attempt: Kea sa kipaete? Literally "what is to be done?" But this many morphemes. I'm wondering whether there might be something like Kea sa ete? I think this would be a focalization of ete kea? meaning literally "do what?" Actually either of those Koa sentences seem like they could work, looking at it like that, and in fact the latter feels like it might retain more of the vibe of the original: it's not really a focused sentence pragmatically, more a general neutral statement about a situation.

Incidentally, in the realm of little useful Koa phrases, I forgot to mention the translation of "OMG" that Allison and I worked out back in April! The Koa version is OVN, short for oo vala ni. I meant to start integrating that into my texting but somehow haven't managed it yet...

Representing verbal focus and lexical class

November 6th, 2021

Based on the conclusions of the previous post, for about five minutes I thought we might be seeing the end of sa as a focus particle in favor of constructions with i ka. It was a little scary but also bold and exciting...I wrote:

"Kea sa se ma sano? is exactly equivalent to
     Ka se ma sano i kea?
     Kea i ka se ma sano?

If we do this, movement rules are completely eliminated. You can superficially 'front' things, as above, but it's then following the same grammatical/syntactic rules, not inventing a new one. We've never fully explored the implications of our ability to add specifiers to clauses, and this is potentially one of them."

Before that line of thought had really gotten going, though, I realized that it ran into irreconcilable difficulties if the focused constituent is a verb rather than its subject or object. For example, if we start with ka tálate i neni "the attempt was in vain," how do we focus "in vain?"

Neni sa ka tálate =
     Neni i ka ka tálate...............?

We end up with "Vain is what the attempt..." and then nothing. What should go in that space? A similar problem comes up in other circumstances when using a specifier with a verb, for example:

Kea sa ta? "What's he like?" -> Ni na ilo ka ta...........? "I don't know what he's like"

What completes these sentences? Is there a dummy verb? If there is one, then there must be a way to use it in non-nominalized clauses too, like

ta ila koke "he be's tall" (ila borrowed from Lithuanian yra incidentally)
ni na ilo ka ta ila "I don't know what he's like"

The only thing about this is that if ta ila koke means the same as ta koke, then technically shouldn't ta lalu be equivalent to ta ila "he's a singer," "he's a singing one," rather than just "he sings"? I suppose ila could have an underlying meaning something like "X is a member of set Y."

This is getting a little sidetracked from the original topic, but speaking of dummy verbs, if I ask Kea sa se ete? "What are you doing?", why can't the answer be an adjective? In other words, why should we assume that the predicate ete is replacing must be verbal rather than adjectival? Why does Kea sa se ete not just mean "what predicate defines the set you are a part of?", just the same as ila above?

BECAUSE, I realize, ete doesn't exactly mean "do." It means "verb"!!!! Without intending to, I created words that allow specificity with respect to the semantic of lexical class, since Koa entirely lacks this concept formally. Check this out:

ete "do the action of predicate X" = "verb"
ila "be a member of set X" = "adjective"
mea "an instantiation of predicate X" = "noun"

This is really pretty exciting. Suddenly we can say things like

na vi ila hulu
NEG IMP 'adjective' crazy
"don't be crazy," as in "don't act crazy"

na vi hulu
NEG IMP crazy
"don't (actually) be crazy"

na vi ila toa
NEG IMP 'adjective' that
"don't be like that"

And there's a fine distinction that can be made between things like

ta ete lalu
3SG 'verb' sing
"he does singing," "he does that singing thing," "the action he engages in is singing," "he sings"


ta ila lalu
3SG 'adjective' sing
"he's one of those singers," "the set he belongs to is the singing one," "he's a singer"

In other words, we can clarify between what he is and what he does. Furthermore, these words also give us Koa-native meta-terminology for these kinds of usages of predicates:

étema "verb"
ílama "adjective"
méama "noun"
nóama "name"

I had never thought before about the need to be able to talk about Koa in Koa, but clearly yes, we should have our own words for the concepts most relevant to Koa grammar. Now I really want words for "predicate" and "particle."

SO THEN, getting back to what we were talking about here, it turns out that we actually can potentially focus verbs using that same i ka structure:

neni i ka ka tálate i ila
vain VP DEF DEF try.instance VP 'adjective'
"vain is what the attempt was," "the attempt was in vain"

ka ka tálate i ila i neni
DEF DEF try.instance VP 'adjective' VP vain

Do we want to, though? That's a different question. Honestly...not really. Partly because I like the brevity and flow of neni sa ka tálate over the necessarily syntactically complete versions above, partly because I dread the proliferation of /k/s that this structure would ensure, e.g. keka i ka ka lúlema i kusu? "whom did the judge ask?", partly because I honestly have some loyalty to sa as one of my very first particles. But also, allowing multiple ways of more or less saying the same things also gives us more nuance of sense in a super useful way for a living language:

kea sa se ma sano?
what FOC 2SG IMPF say
"what are you saying?"

ka se ma sano i kea?
DEF 2SG IMPF say VP what
"what you're saying is...what, exactly?"

kea i ka se ma sano?
what VP DEF 2SG IMPF say
"what is it that you're saying?"

We do still need to talk in detail about what verbal focus looks like in practice. Is "I kissed it, I didn't eat it!" suso sa ni ete ta, na suo sa? Whoa...I was expecting that to be weird, but actually I think that's exactly right. Anyway, more to come on that front. But meanwhile, I think we finally have just about everything we need to lay down some principles of focus/relativization/nominalization, hopefully the next time I find some spare time to write.

Unrelated note: tai should stop meaning "stand." I'm not sure why I decided it should have this double life, but it's kind of weird and I don't like it. It just means "be/exist."

Aka në rínchat no më – I will not fear

November 4th, 2021

Years ago I started in on a Kílta translation of the very famous Litany Against Fear from Frank Herbert's Dune books. But I ran into a few problems I wasn't finding easy to work with, and rather than force it, I put the translation aside to marinate. I realized a few days I ago I finally have the tools to address it in a naturally Kílta way.

Aka në rínchat no më.
Rínchot në, michumokës no,
Nekin uttimës no,
Mantin emémmiëtta no.
Rínchot si chérat no.
Aka si in hotekat in aimánat huitat no.
Rínchot në ohëchët, aka keta si michiëkan rinkat no.
Rínchot vë issa nen vura rokat no më.
Aka në anui vëchat no.

1) The canonical opening line is "I must not fear." Because the rest of the recitation uses the future a lot, I just put it in the future here. The film and TV adaptations of Dune all make their own modifications to the Litany, and the TV show used the simple future as well. I also use Kílta's high-agency first person pronoun, aka, which is more an aspiration if you're reciting this, but I find it a nice touch here.

2) I topicalize rínchot fear, and talk about it a bit. The word michumokës is a transparent compound, mind-killer.

3) Again, close to the original, "it is the little death" (no, not that one).

4) This is trickier. The original is "that brings total obliteration." I went with structural parallelism with line (3), [ADJ N no]. Emémmiëtta is a rather odd word, and means "that which causes destruction," in an instrumental sense. Often nouns derived like this are physical items. "It is a terrible instrument that causes destruction."

5) The closest equivalent to "I'll face my fear" in Kílta is rather aggressive, which I don't think is quite in keeping with the following lines. I use instead "I will acknowledge my fear," or even "I will feel my fear." The construction ADJ + chéro is normal for internal feeling expressions, which is supposed to be in mind for this sentence.

6) "I will allow it to go over and go through me." Very close to the original.

7) I use a converb clause for sequencing, rather than the nominalization of the original, "the fear having passed." Then I get to break out michiëkan with mind (attention) turned inward. There is a not often used suffix, -iëkan, which generates adverbs meaning in, inward, towards the center. The meanings are often idiomatic, as here. Michiëkan came out of some other vocabulary work I was doing, and once I had it I knew immediately it would work for this. I also use keta footprint, trace of passage, trace of existence.

8) "On the fear's path there will be nothing." Very close to the original, though again avoiding a nominalized relative clause.

9) A final declaration of agency, using aka, with the line very close to the original.

Translated out of Kílta:

I will not fear.
Fear, it is the mind-killer,
it is the little death,
it is a terrible cause of destruction.
I will feel my fear.
I will let it go over and go through me.
The fear having passed, I will see (its) trace by turning my mind inward.
On the fear's path there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.

This remains quite close to the original, while accepting a few changes to meet Kílta's usual way of doing things, and few tweaks to make the style work better in the language. The last line lands a little flat and obvious in Kílta, and might still get some pragmatic refinements in the future.

Focus without movement

November 2nd, 2021

This is the first in a series of posts about focus, nominalized clauses and relativization, which in Koa are all closely related. I'm hoping that by the end of it we'll have cleared up a whole suite of muddlements that have persisted since the early days.

Koa's focus particle, sa, has its origins in Yoruba ni with the same function. In Yoruba, the focalized constituent is moved to the front of the clause, followed by ni (li or l' before an oral vowel), and leaving a gap in its original position:

kíl'o rà níbẹ̀?
what.FOC-2SG buy there
"what did you buy there?"

aṣọ ni mo rà
cloth FOC 1SG buy
"it was cloth I bought"

This is exactly parallel, at least superficially, to the structures in Koa:

kea sa se kou ne toa?
what FOC 2SG buy LOC there
"what did you buy there?"

vate sa ni kou
cloth FOC 1SG buy
"it was cloth I bought"

Movement rules like this seemed plausible enough given Yoruba's permission and I didn't think that much about it until I started trying to translate headless relative clauses. If "What do you want?" is Kea sa se halu?, then how do you say "I don't know what you want"? I recall going through a whole bunch of contortions trying to figure this out:

?ni na ilo [ kea sa se halu ]
1SG NEG know [ what FOC 2SG want ]
A word-for word calque of the English structure. Can embedded clauses can be focused just like main clauses, and without overt marking? Is this how embedded questions should work? This feels very natural, obviously, but that's not necessarily a good thing: it needs to make sense in terms of Koa, not in terms of English.

?ni na ilo ko [ kea sa se halu ]
1SG NEG know COMP [ what FOC 2SG want ]
This has a complementizer to set off the embedded clause, which is how Hungarian does it. Still feeling really nervous about the way focus works in the sub-clause, and also the way the question is embedded.

?ni na ilo ko [ se halu kea ]
1SG NEG know COMP [ 2SG want what ]
This gets rid of the worrisome focus issue, but somehow feels even worse.

I think it was nagging at me that (A) I wasn't sure I really liked my not-particularly-examined movement rules after all, and (B) accepting the IE way of thinking of these as "embedded questions" in the first place felt like sloppy, circular thinking. If there were a book titled What I Think, would the Koa translation genuinely be Kea Sa Ni Lule, using a question word -- and literally exactly the same sequence of words as the question "what do I think?" -- even though there is not really any kind of question being asked? PLUS we're explicitly not supposed to be forced to rely on intonation for basic functional distinctions, and that's exactly what this would require.

It also made me feel a little squirmy that sa was such an anomaly in every way. It's a particle that goes after the constituent it applies to? What in fact was going on here below the surface?

All this led me to remember my Nahuatl, which handles focus in a pretty astonishingly different way. Note that ca is a statement marker, contrasting with e.g. cuix which would turn these into questions:

ca cihuātl in cochi
STMT woman DEF sleep.3SG
"it is a woman who is sleeping," lit. "the she-sleeps-one is a woman"

ca ātl in niqui
STMT water DEF 1SG-drink
"it's water that I'm drinking," lit. "the I-drink-one is water"

Calquing these into Koa, we'd end up with:

mina i ka nuku
woman VP DEF sleep
"it is a woman who is sleeping"

anu i ka ni ma ipo
water VP DEF 1SG IMPF drink
"it's water that I'm drinking"

Several pretty noticeable things came out of this right away.

1) Focus requires no underlying movement rules, which is frankly awesome in a denying-Chomsky-his-invisible-branching-structures kind of way

2) Which constituent counts as the "NP" and which as the "VP" is a little arbitrary; both of these could be flipped around while retaining the focus:

ka nuku i mina
DEF sleep VP woman
"the one sleeping is a woman"

ka ni ma ipo i anu
DEF 1SG IMPF drink VP water
"the thing I'm drinking is water"

3) These structures are exactly parallel to relative clauses:

ka mina ve nuku
DEF woman REL sleep
"the woman who's sleeping"

ka anu ve ni ma ipo
DEF water REL 1SG IMPF drink
"the water I'm drinking"

4) They would give us a Koa-native way of doing "embedded questions," without having to think of them as questions at all:

ka nuku
DEF sleep
"who is sleeping"

ka ni ma ipo
DEF 1SG IMPF drink
"what I'm drinking"

Ka Ni Lule
DEF 1SG think
"What I Think"

5) Most fascinating of all, i ka in the original calqued-from-Nahuatl examples can be replaced with sa to yield identical meanings:

mina sa nuku
woman FOC sleep
"it is a woman who is sleeping"

anu sa ni ma ipo
water FOC 1SG IMPF drink
"it's water that I'm drinking"

Nahuatl made it possible to work backwards up to that Koa structure with sa in such a way that we can understand exactly what it's doing there without having to infer movement at all, AND fixed the headless relative clause problem, all in one fell swoop.

The natural follow-up question, in the face of this, is whether we actually need sa at all! And the answer is yes, for interesting reasons that we'll get to next time...

Die Wichtigkeit von Conlangs in Medien

November 1st, 2021

Jonah is a conlanger and worldbuilder from Germany who recently graduated high school. He started worldbuilding early on and later started making languages for a fantasy world about which he also has written a novel and short stories, following a huge interest in history and ancient languages. His best known language is Käntwo, but he’s currently working on a family of hunter-gatherer languages for a new worldbuilding project. During his leisure time he likes to worldbuild, roller skate, and make conlang-related YouTube videos. In the future he wants to study historical linguistics.

Jonah ist ein Conlanger und Worldbuilder aus Deutschland, der vor kurzem sein Abitur gemacht hat. Er hat schon früh mit Worldbuilding begonnen und später Sprachen für eine Fantasy-Welt entwickelt, über die er auch einen Roman und Kurzgeschichten schreibt, was einem großen Interesse an Geschichte und alten Sprachen folgt. Seine bekannteste Sprache ist Käntwo, aber er arbeitet derzeit an einer Familie von Jäger- und Sammlersprachen für ein neues Worldbuilding-Projekt. In seiner Freizeit mag er Worldbuilding, Rollerskaten und das Erstellen von Conlang-YouTube-Videos. In der Zukunft möchte er historische Linguistik studieren.


Fantasy and Science Fiction shows and movies have been gaining a lot of popularity recently. Thus the authenticity of fictional cultures in media is more important than ever: being a prop it has to be both fully functional and authentic. Suitable conlangs in media are essential, especially in a globalised society like ours to avoid cultural appropriation.

Fantasy- und Science-Fiction-Serien und -Filme haben in letzter Zeit stark an Popularität gewonnen. Daher ist die Authentizität fiktionaler Kulturen in den Medien wichtiger denn je: als Requisite muss sie sowohl voll funktionsfähig als auch authentisch sein. Geeignete Conlangs in Medien sind essentiell, besonders in einer globalisierten Gesellschaft wie der unseren, um kulturelle Aneignung zu vermeiden.

Version History

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.


October 29th, 2021

A language with a small number of verbs that combine with nouns to make actions, with the verbs in question being HTTP request methods.

Detail #421: A Quirky Numeral Structure

October 29th, 2021

Consider a language with singulars, duals and plurals. The language has a rather strict distinction between mass and count nouns, and explicitly marks different types of individuated, specific, indefinite, etc references.

Now, this entirely eliminates the need for the numerals one and two, as you would never say 'two bikes', you'd say bike-dual. You would never say 'there are two of them', you'd say 'they-plur are they-dual'.

This of course leads to problems when counting higher numbers. You have nothing to put after 'twenty' or 'thirty' when you want to form 21 and 22.

Twenty bike-SINGULAR = 21 bikes.
Twenty bike-DUAL = 22 bikes.

Probably unlikely.

Detail #420: Ambiguous Reference with Possessive Pronouns

October 26th, 2021

English has some ambiguity with its possessive pronouns, but the level of ambiguity could be taken to a weirder level in this way:

reflexive third person ownership or other third person referent: singular possessive pronoun

Thus "he sees his house" can have 'his' either be reflexive or not, but "they see his house" also can signify reflexive possession.

reciprocal ownership uses a third person plural possessive pronoun

Thus "they see their house" can mean 'they see some other persons' houses' or 'they see each other's houses'.

I don't think this kind of idea is entirely unrealistic.