Synthese 197 (9):3851-3873 (2020)

In this paper we explore the interpretation of quantity expressions in Yudja, an indigenous language spoken in the Amazonian basin, showing that while the language allows reference to exact cardinalities, it does not generally allow reference to exact measure values. It does, however, allow non-exact comparison along continuous dimensions. We use this data to argue that the grammar of exact measurement is distinct from a grammar allowing the expression of exact cardinalities, and that the grammar of counting and the grammar of measurement may use numerals with different, though related interpretations. As Yudja shows, the language of measurement is not automatically acquired along with the knowledge of exact numeral expressions. We show that the ‘gap’ between prelinguistic intuitions about quantity in terms of numerosity and counting, which is bridged by the learning of language expressing exact cardinality, is paralleled by a similar gap between prelinguistic intuitions about quantity on a continuous dimension and measuring: this gap too must be bridged by language which expresses exact measure values. Our results suggest that the enculturation process by which we develop skills to perform abstract operations in the domain of measurement is language dependent and distinct from the process by which we learn to perform abstract calculations in the cardinal domain.
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DOI 10.1007/s11229-018-02016-5
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The Origin of Concepts.Susan Carey - 2009 - Oxford University Press.
Frege's Theorem.Richard G. Heck - 2011 - Oxford, England: Clarendon Press.

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