Sortal, Relational, and Functional Interpretations of Nouns and Russian Container Constructions

Journal of Semantics 29 (4):445-486 (2012)
Among the semantic types that nouns can take on, functional types are the smallest class, and functional nouns are probably not a linguistically distinct subcategory, pace Löbner (1985). But there are some interesting constructions specific to functional nouns, of which we discuss three, devoting most attention to the third. The three are (i) parameter-headed NPs as modifiers in English, as in a dress that length (Partee 1986), (ii) a construction in Russian known as Genitive with Obligatory Third Term (Borschev & Knorina 1990), similar to English person of medium height, *person of height and (iii) Russian Genitive of Measure construction(s), illustrated by stakan moloka ‘glass of milk’, involving a quantity of substance contained in a container. We describe a series of meaning-shifts that lead from the concrete container-noun to its use as a pure (functional) measure term. The main theoretical concerns here are these meaning shifts and the question of how many distinct senses need to be recognized. We close with some observations on the relation between linguistic and non-linguistic aspects of the natural-language metaphysics of containers
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DOI 10.1093/jos/ffs009
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Sebastian Löbner (1985). Definites. Journal of Semantics 4 (4):279-326.

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