A central debate in the literature on grammatical number systems and nominal semantics is whether the countable/noncountable contrast is ontologically based or ultimately arbitrary. This article examines this question in light of several languages that express three or more categories of grammatical number, in particular including a collective category containing nouns of an intermediate status between prototypical countable nouns and prototypical noncountable nouns. I connect this crosslinguistic data to psycholinguistic research on individuation, identifying several individuation types, that is, noun meanings organized into equivalence classes based on shared individuation properties. The individuation types themselves can be ordered, giving rise to a scale of individuation. I propose that the organization of grammatical number systems reflects the scale of individuation, effectively steering a middle course between ontological and grammatical accounts. This approach accounts for a range of grammatical number systems and makes broad predictions bearing on what possible grammatical number systems are.*


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 527-574
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.