Events and Countability


There is an emerging view according to which countability is not an integral part of the lexical meaning of singular count nouns, but is ‘added on’ or ‘made available’, whether syntactically, semantically or both. This view has been pursued by Borer and Rothstein among others in order to deal with classifier languages such as Chinese as well as challenges to standard views of the mass-count distinction such as object mass nouns such as furniture. I will discuss a range of data, partly from German, that such a grammar-based view of countability receives support when applied to verbs with respect to the event argument position. Verbs themselves fail to specify events as countable in English and related languages; instead countability is made available only by the use of the event classifier time or else particular lexical items, such as frequency expressions, German beides ‘both’, or the nominalizing light noun -thing. The paper will not adopt or elaborate a particular version of the grammar-based view of countability, but rather critically discuss existing versions and present two semantic options of elaborating the view.



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Friederike Moltmann
Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique

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