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Count and Mass Across Languages$
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Diane Massam

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199654277

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199654277.001.0001

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Countability and numeral classifiers in Mandarin Chinese

Countability and numeral classifiers in Mandarin Chinese

(p.220) 12 Countability and numeral classifiers in Mandarin Chinese
Count and Mass Across Languages

Niina Ning Zhang

Oxford University Press

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

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