Why no standardized pluralization/conjugation for y-endings?

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Why no standardized pluralization/conjugation for y-endings?

Unread postby cfsoda » 01 May 2004, 04:32

A few of my students are also high school teachers and have asked the same question) have asked me why there is not just one standardized spelling rule for "y"-ending pluralizations. Example: currently, the plural (and/or conjugated form) of "fly" would be "flies" but the plural of "play" would be "plays" (the difference is due to the vowel/consonant ending in the root). Why not "flys", for example, to coincide with "plays"? In other words, why not simply standardize the form so that anyone could simply add an "s" to any word ending in a "y" when pluralizing?

THANK YOU FOR YOUR TIME!!
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Forming plurals

Unread postby Lucy » 05 May 2004, 17:39

:R: You are right in saying that the different forms of spelling of plurals with ‘y’ is due to the fact that this letter can be used as a vowel or a consonant.

In the word fly, for example,’y’ is used as a vowel and so changes to ‘i’ in plurals. In the word ‘play’, ‘y’ is considered a consonant and so doesn’t change. A clue to help you here is that you have a vowel (‘a’) before ‘y’.

Students can usually understand this and exposure to many examples over time will help them tune into the rule.

You ask why we don’t simply standardise the formation of plurals. I suppose the answer is that English is a living language, rules are not imposed, they emerge through usage. However, there’s no reason why we wouldn’t move in that direction over time. This is a very long process though.
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