On the mass/count distinction in Ojibwe

Eric Mathieu

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

On the mass/count distinction in Ojibwe

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While it is common in the literature to find claims that Algonquian languages do not have a grammatical mass/count distinction (because many nouns, and according to some authors, all nouns can be pluralized), the chapter argues in this paper that on the contrary Algonquian languages, and in particular Ojibwe, has such a distinction as part of its grammar. The pluralization of mass nouns is an illusion in that what is being pluralized is a noun that has been singulativized. The chapter shows that Ojibwe has remnants of a gender shift system (much clearer morphologically in Mesqualike (Fox) and that gender shift marks the singulative. That Algonquian languages are singulative languages is a brand new claim that makes many interesting predictions. Theoretically, the chapter integrates singulative systems into Borer's (2005) theory of division and argue that these languages provide another strategy to perform division on nouns that are still undivided.

Keywords: Ojibwe; Algonquian; pluralization; singulativization; gender shift; division; mass; count

Chapter.  9954 words. 

Subjects: Semantics

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