, Volume 27, Issue 4, pp 393-450

Number Marking and (in)Definiteness in Kind Terms

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Abstract

This paper explores the link between number marking and(in)definiteness in nominals and their interpretation. Differencesbetween bare singulars and plurals in languages without determinersare explained by treating bare nominals as kind terms. Differencesarise, it is argued, because singular and plural kinds relatedifferently to their instantiations. In languages with determiners,singular kinds typically occur with the definite determiner, butplural/mass kinds can be bare in some languages and definite inothers. An account of singular kinds in terms of taxonomic readingsis proposed, with number marking playing a crucial role inexplaining the obligatory presence of the determiner. The variationbetween languages with respect to plural/mass kinds is explained bypositing a universal scale of definiteness, with individual languageschoosing different cut-off points for lexicalization of the definitedeterminer. The possibility of further cross-linguistic variation isalso considered.