Journal of East Asian Linguistics

, Volume 3, Issue 1, pp 1–24 | Cite as

Plurality and other semantic aspects of common nouns in Korean

  • Beom-Mo Kang


In this paper, I try to present the semantics of Korean common nouns in light of Link's (1983) semantic theory on denotations of plurals and mass terms. First, I show that the semantic count/mass distinction of common nouns is as important in Korean as in English, despite the fact that the distinction is blurred in some constructions such as the canonical quantification structure of [CN(Nominal) + Numeral + Classifier]. Then, the semantic domains of Korean count nouns are shown to be much like those of English count nouns except that the denotation of a syntactically singular count noun in Korean may include a semantically plural domain as well as a singular domain. For instance, using Link's Logic of Plurals and Mass Terms,sakwa in Korean denotes |*apple'|, rather than |apple'|, the latter being the denotation of Englishapple. It is also shown that the semantic domains of common nouns, in Korean and even in English in some cases, are much more flexible than may be thought. This claim is made with respect to the proportional reading of Englishmany (discussed by Partee (1988)) and Koreanmanhun. In this connection, a possible semantic treatment of Korean classifiers as domain shifters is provided. This enables us to capture our semantic intuition about anomalous expressions such aschayk ‘book’,han ‘one’, and the classifiercan ‘glass’. Finally, some problems closely related to the interpretation of common nouns, namely the problems of kinds, genericity, and topicality, are discussed. It is shown how these notions are related in the theory which allows flexible interpretive domains of common nouns.


Mass Term Semantic Theory Quantification Structure Canonical Quantification Common Noun 
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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • Beom-Mo Kang
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of LinguisticsKorea UniversitySeoulKorea

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