Natural Language Semantics 25 (2):125-171 (2017)

Amy Rose Deal
University of California, Santa Cruz
To what extent are countability distinctions subject to systematic semantic variation? Could there be a language with no countability distinctions—in particular, one where all nouns are count? I argue that the answer is no: even in a language where all NPs have the core morphosyntactic properties of English count NPs, such as combining with numerals directly and showing singular/plural contrasts, countability distinctions still emerge on close inspection. I divide these distinctions into those related to sums and those related to parts. In the Sahaptian language Nez Perce, evidence can be found for both types of distinction, in spite of the absence of anything like a traditional mass–count division in noun morphosyntax. I propose an extension of the Nez Perce analysis to Yudja, analyzed by Lima as lacking any countability distinctions. More generally, I suggest that at least one countability distinction may be universal and that languages without any countability distinctions may be unlearnable.
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DOI 10.1007/s11050-017-9132-0
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References found in this work BETA

Word and Object.Willard Van Orman Quine - 1960 - Cambridge, MA, USA: MIT Press.
Word and Object.Willard Van Orman Quine - 1960 - Les Etudes Philosophiques 17 (2):278-279.
Generalized Quantifiers and Natural Language.John Barwise & Robin Cooper - 1981 - Linguistics and Philosophy 4 (2):159--219.
Word and Object.Henry W. Johnstone - 1961 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 22 (1):115-116.

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Citations of this work BETA

Iconic Plurality.Philippe Schlenker & Jonathan Lamberton - 2019 - Linguistics and Philosophy 42 (1):45-108.
Gather / numerous as a mass/count opposition.Jeremy Kuhn - 2020 - Natural Language Semantics 28 (3):225-253.
Perspectival Plurality, Relativism, and Multiple Indexing.Dan Zeman - 2018 - In Rob Truswell, Chris Cummins, Caroline Heycock, Brian Rabern & Hannah Rohde (eds.), Proceedings of Sinn und Bedeutung 21, Vol. 2. Semantics Archives. pp. 1353-1370.

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