Article

Mass-Count Distinction

Alan Bale and David Barner

in Linguistics

ISBN: 9780199772810
Published online October 2011 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780199772810-0028
Mass-Count Distinction

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  • Linguistics
  • Anthropological Linguistics
  • Language Families
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The mass-count distinction is reflected in the syntax and semantics of nouns, verbs, adjectives, and quantifiers. Sometimes called by other names (e.g., countable vs. uncountable), the distinction was first made in modern times by O. Jespersen and L. Bloomfield and has since been discussed by linguists, philosophers of language, and psychologists alike. The distinction is of broad interest because it offers a tractable problem for natural language semantics but also because it relates clearly to important topics in cognitive development (e.g., object permanence) and is subject to significant cross-linguistic variation, raising questions about the relationship between linguistic diversity and its effects on nonlinguistic thought. Recently, work on the topic has extended into psycholinguistics and the neurosciences as a fundamental case study for exploring the psychological representations that underlie natural language syntax and semantics.

Article.  9784 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Anthropological Linguistics ; Language Families ; Psycholinguistics ; Sociolinguistics

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