Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Count and Mass Across Languages$
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content.

Diane Massam

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199654277

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199654277.001.0001

Show Summary Details
Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.oxfordscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2019. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 17 October 2019

Semantic triggers, linguistic variation and the mass‐count distinction ⋆

Semantic triggers, linguistic variation and the mass‐count distinction ⋆

Chapter:
(p.238) 13 Semantic triggers, linguistic variation and the mass‐count distinction
Source:
Count and Mass Across Languages
Author(s):

Alan C. Bale

David Barner

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199654277.003.0013

Although most languages allow nouns to be used with numerals to express cardinality, they differ significantly in how they grammatically encode such expressions. Some languages, like English, require count syntax whereas others, like Mandarin, lack count syntax and typically use classifiers. Here, the chapter asks what appears to be a simple question: how do children determine whether their language makes a distinction between mass and count syntax? This question reveals itself to be subtle and difficult when languages beyond English and Mandarin are considered. The chapter argues that prototypical syntactic and morphological differences between mass-count and classifier languages are not constitutive of this typological difference. The use of classifiers, the combination of numerals with bare nouns, and even plural morphology can occur in both mass-count and classifier languages. As a result, such features cannot be sufficient for determining whether or not a language has count syntax. Instead, the chapter argues that it is the relation of these syntactic structures to their semantic interpretations that differentiates languages and guides acquisition. Only mass-count languages can specify exclusive reference to singularities in absence of classifiers or measure words.

Keywords:   mass, count, acquisition, semantic triggers, Mandarin, Western Armenian, English, Mandarin

Oxford Scholarship Online requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books within the service. Public users can however freely search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter.

Please, subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.

To troubleshoot, please check our FAQs , and if you can't find the answer there, please contact us .