Empirical, Theoretical and Computational Approaches to Countability in Natural Language
A conference organized by the Linguistics Department (Sprachwissenschaftliches Institut) of Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Germany.
Ruhr-Universität Bochum, September 22-24, 2010
Conference program: Papers and Authors
Conference program: Time Schedule
Aims and scope
The distinction between mass and count nouns has been addressed in a variety of linguistic (and also extra-linguistic) approaches. Initially, it has been suggested that the distinction is a property of lexemes, or that it can be derived from properties of the objects denoted by the respective nouns. This assumption has been severely challenged by a variety of approaches, leading to the assumption that countability is a property of constructions and phrases. Yet, a critical survey of the most advanced work on the count-mass distinction has shown that multiple, partially conflicting views on this phenomenon are still competing.
As an illustration for unsettled questions, consider the following:
- If the mass-count distinction is actually dependent on formal syntactic and/or semantic marking, how are nouns to be classified that lack such a marking, e.g., nouns in preposition-noun combinations (determinerless PPs)?
- If mass is taken to be a basic property of nouns to which syntactic marking must be added to transform the noun into a count noun, why do certain languages already require such marking for mass terms (e.g., Romance languages)?
- How can the apparent tension between theoretical constructional (i.e., token-based, and hence construction-specific) and computational (i.e. primarily type-based, and hence possibly lexical-class-based) classification be resolved?
The goal of this conference is to bring researchers from all areas of linguistics together to clarify the numerous existing theories concerning the count-mass distinction and also to offer a platform for new insights and constructive criticism.
Hagit Borer (University of Southern California, Los Angeles)
Francis Jeffry Pelletier (Simon Fraser University, Burnaby)
Henriette de Swart (OTS, Universiteit Utrecht)
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