Talk:collective noun

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I am not sure whether collective noun is a catagory, but there is a huge list of them as pertains to groups of animals which could be listed here in a related words section. Thoughts on whether or not this would be appropriate? TheDaveRoss 04:49, 14 Apr 2005 (UTC)

I wouldn't want to see what is listed in the English Wikipedia article here; but it is, please add a separate listing for the different meaning used there, from what there is in the brief definition now existing in the article here, barely enough to tell that it is different.
Compare, for example, the entry under "collective noun" here at The American Heritage® Book of English Usage:
"Some nouns, like committee, clergy, enemy, group, family, and team, refer to a group but are singular in form. These nouns are called collective nouns. . . .
Collective nouns always refer to living creatures. Similar inanimate nouns, such as furniture and luggage, differ in that they cannot be counted individually. That is why you cannot buy a furniture or a luggage. These nouns are usually called mass nouns or noncount nouns. They always take a singular verb: The bedroom furniture was on sale."
Totally different from what is talked about at Wikipedia's w:collective noun, isn't it? Gene Nygaard 29 June 2005 02:05 (UTC)

Collective nouns vs. Mass nouns[edit]

"Collective nouns" are fundamentally different from the noun variously known as "mass nouns", "non-count nouns", and "uncountable nouns". Though the terms are often confused by those unfamiliar with English linguistics, the term "collective noun" is never a synonym. Please check the definitions in the following online sources:


Collins word exchange:

Merriam-Webster online:

MSN Encarta dictionary:

Hippietrail 29 June 2005 02:12 (UTC)

The Wikipedia article deals with words like "murder" (for a group of crows), "pod" (for a group of whales), etc., and it deals more with trivia than with linguistics. The others deal with words like "family" and "team", as does the one brief definition currently given here in Wictionary. Completely different meanings, or at least much different from each other than the meaning given here is from the meaning given in Wiktionary and these other sources including Wikipedia under "mass noun" (at least the ones I checked, a couple of those links timed out on me without establishing a connection).
The definition used in the other references outside Wikipedia, as so clearly stated by the American Heritage one, are synonyms of mass noun. Not exactly the same thing, but synonyms, very similar meanings. That meaning of "collective noun" is a subset of "mass noun", which can be applied in reference to animate objects as well as inanimate ones. Of course, even if you looked at them as mutually complementary terms, with pretty much the same meaning but one applied ONLY to animate objects and the other applied ONLY to inanimate objects, they'd still be synonyms.
That's the whole purpose of including lists of synonyms; to be able to find a word or term which more precisely fits what you want to say. It took me a long time to think of the term "collective noun" when I started a somewhat related discussion on Wiktionary:Beer Parlour#Designation of nouns as "countable" and "uncountable". That's why I cross-referenced these synonyms, to help others who might have the same problem. Gene Nygaard 29 June 2005 02:41 (UTC)
See also this websit Terms of Venery related to the primary synonym of "collective noun" as used on w:collective noun and do your little Google searches for the exact phrase "term of venery". [1] Gene Nygaard 29 June 2005 03:12 (UTC)
As far as I can tell, the two are not even particularly close in meaning. E.g. sand is a mass noun and not a collective noun, family is a collective noun and not a mass noun. Collective nouns can fill the blank in "a ... of", while mass nouns cannot fill the same role (you could say "a sand of particular abrasiveness" or whatever, but that's obviously a horse of a different color). Synonyms can generally be substituted freely for each other, in at least some senses, with only small changes in meaning. Substituting collective noun for mass noun in "Sand is a mass noun" changes a true sentence to a false sentence (strictly speaking this doesn't prove the point, but I don't believe there is any combination of senses in which the two are freely interchangeable).
As to following links and finding useful words, this is what "see also" is for. -dmh June 29, 2005 04:17 (UTC)
By the same token, I wouldn't necessarily list "term of venery" as a synonym. Not all collective nouns are terms of venery. I don't believe car would generally be considered a synonym for vehicle. -dmh June 29, 2005 04:26 (UTC)