Counting and classifiers⋆

Lisa Lai‐Shen Cheng

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

Counting and classifiers⋆

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This chapter re-examines the interpretation of bare nouns in Chinese, and the distinction between count-classifiers and massifiers. Using three different puzzles, it is shown that (a) bare nouns in Chinese cannot be coerced into mass reading (since coercion requires a morphosyntactic trigger, which Chinese lacks; (2) Cantonese differs from Mandarin in that classifiers are unit markers, which can undergo reduplication and yield individuation; and (3) massifiers do not form a uniform group and that de appears only with quantity measures. Lastly, it is argued that di1 in Cantonese is a plural classifier, supporting the claim that classifiers express number.

Keywords: classifier; massifier; individuation; Cantonese; Mandarin

Chapter.  7188 words. 

Subjects: Semantics

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