Decomposing the mass/count distinction: Evidence from languages that lack it<sup>*</sup>

Martina Wiltschko

in Count and Mass Across Languages

Published in print September 2012 | ISBN: 9780199654277
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191746048 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Studies in Theoretical Linguistics

Decomposing the mass/count distinction: Evidence from languages that lack it*

Show Summary Details


This chapter establishes that not all languages have a grammaticized mass/count distinction and consequently we have to distinguish between ontological properties associated with nouns and categorical properties associated with a functional category dominating these nouns. It is argued that the categorical properties associated with the mass/count distinction are tied to a functional category identified as nominal inner aspect. This category can host the feature responsible for the mass/count distinction (i.e, [± bounded]). It is further shown that languages lacking a categorical mass/count distinction come in at least two varieties. They can lack the functional category which may host the [±bounded] feature (Halkomelem). Alternatively, they can associated a different feature with inner aspect. In particular, it is shown that in Blackfoot [±animate] associates with inner aspect. Consequently, in this language, it is animacy, rather than mass/count which serves as the nominal classification device.

Keywords: Blackfoot; Halkomelem; German; English; inner aspect; boundedness; animacy; countability; number; numerals; language variation; functional category; nominal classification; ontological properties; categorical properties; gender

Chapter.  8186 words. 

Subjects: Semantics

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.