Journal of Philosophical Logic 3 (1/2):87 - 108 (1974)
|Abstract||Simple mass nouns are words like ‘water’, ‘furniture’ and ‘gold’. We can form complex mass noun phrases such as ‘dirty water’, ‘leaded gold’ and ‘green grass’. I do not propose to discuss the problems in giving a characterization of the words that are mass versus those that are not. For the purposes of this paper I shall make the following decrees: (a) nothing that is not a noun or noun phrase can be mass, (b) no abstract noun phrases are considered mass, (c) words like ‘thing’, ‘entity’ and ‘object’ are not mass, (d) I shall not consider such words as ‘stuff’, ‘substance or ‘matter’, (e) measures on mass nouns (like ‘gallon of gasoline’, ‘blade of grass’, etc.) are not considered, (f) plurals of count terms are not considered mass. Within these limitations, we can say generally that mass noun phrases are those phrases that ‘much’ can be prefexed to, by ‘many’ cannot be prefexed to, without an0maly.l Semantically, such phrases usually have the property of collectiveness- they are true of any sum of things of which they are true ; and of divisiveness - they are true of any part (down to a certain limit) of things of which they are true. All of this, however, is only ‘generally speaking’ - I shall mostly use only the simple examples given above and ignore the problems in giving a complete characterization of mass nouns. In the paper I want to discuss some problems involved in casting English sentences containing mass nouns into some artificial language; but in order to do this we should have some anchoring framework on which to justify or reject a given proposal. The problem of finding an adequate language can be viewed as a case of translation (from English to the artificial language), where the translation relation must meet certain requirements. I shall suggest five such requirements; others could be added|
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