[PLing] Talk on countability (Hana Filip and Peter Sutton, Tuesday next week)

Eva Rosina eva.rosina at univie.ac.at
Mon Sep 2 13:02:51 CEST 2019

Dear all,

We, the conjunction and disjunction group, are - on Tuesday next week (the
10th of September) - hosting the probably last talk before our project is

Hana Filip and Peter Sutton (both Heinrich-Heine-Universität, Düsseldorf)
are going to talk about the interesting topic of countability of abstract
nouns. The title of the talk is "Informational Object Nouns and the
mass/count distinction" and the abstract is to be found below. 

We are starting at 4.30 pm in Seminarraum I (1st floor "Unterteilung",
Stairway 7a / 9) of the German institute in the main building. This is how
you get there: https://www.univie.ac.at/konjunktion/wegbeschreibung.html 

We hope that many of you are as excited about our speakers as we are, and
have time to come!

Eva Rosina and the others from the Conjunction-and-Disjunction Team (Nina
Haslinger, Valentin Panzirsch, Magdalena Roszkowski, Viola Schmitt and
Valerie Wurm)

Informational Object Nouns and the mass/count distinction

This paper provides a novel contribution to the small but growing literature
on the countability
of abstract nouns (Grimm, 2014; Nicholas, 2010; Tovena, 2001; Zamparelli,
2018, amongst
others). Abstract nouns have so far been largely set aside in semantic
theories of the mass/count
distinction, which focus on the more tractable concrete Ns denoting material
objects or stuff. Given
the heterogeneity of abstract Ns (Grimm, 2014; Zamparelli, 2018), here we
focus on one lexical
subclass, which we call Informational Object Ns (IONs). What needs to be
explained is why some
IONs are straightforwardly countable (e.g., three statements/beliefs/facts),
they are count, but
others are not (#three information(s)/knowledge(s)), they are mass. We draw
on theories of the
mass/count distinction developed for concrete nouns, especially on the
semantics of Collective
Artefact Nouns (CANs), e.g., furniture, equipment, and jewellery, which we
argue share certain
grammatical properties with IONs. Moreover, we use the type-generalised
mereological approach
in Schmitt (2013) and Schmitt (2017) which can accommodate, e.g., sums of
propositions as well
as the more familiar sums of entities. We also appeal to the semantic
stative/episodic distinction
which, perhaps surprisingly, turns out to be one factor in determining what
interpretations are
available for some IONs in counting constructions.


Grimm, S. (2014). “Individuating the abstract”. Proceedings of Sinn und
Beduetung 18. Ed. by
U. Etxeberria et al., pp. 182–200.
Nicholas, D. (2010). “Towards a semantics for mass expressions derived from
gradable nominals”.
Recherches linguistiques de Vincennes 39.10, pp. 163–198.
Schmitt, V. (2013). “More pluralities”. PhD thesis. University of Vienna.
— (2017). “Cross-categorial plurality and plural composition”. manuscript.
Tovena, L. M. (2001). “Between Mass and Count”. Proceedings of WCCFL 20. Ed.
by K.
Megerdoomian and L. Bar-el, pp. 565–578.
Zamparelli, R. (2018). “Countability Shifts and Abstract Nouns”. Mass and
Count in Linguistics,
Philosophy, and Cognitive Science. Ed. by F. Moltmann and L. Tovena.
Benjamins (To appear).

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