Countability and numeral classifiers in Mandarin Chinese

Niina Ning Zhang

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

Countability and numeral classifiers in Mandarin Chinese

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This chapter studies the relationship between classifiers and the count-mass contrast. It shows that the contrast between count and mass is not binary. Instead, there are two independently attested features: numerability, the ability of a noun to combine with a numeral directly, distinguishes count from non-count nouns, and dimensionality, the ability of a noun to be modified by a size or shape modifier, distinguishes mass from non-mass nouns. Assuming numerals and size and shape modifiers are universally available, we are able to identify count and mass nominals in any language. Although all nouns in Chinese are non-count nouns, there is still a mass/non-mass contrast, with mass nouns selected by individuating classifiers and non-mass nouns selected by individual classifiers.

Keywords: classifier; countability; count; mass; plural; measure; Chinese

Chapter.  7344 words. 

Subjects: Semantics

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