The Proper Treatment of Mass Terms in English

  • Richard Montague
Part of the Synthese Language Library book series (SLAP, volume 6)


The basic problem is to determine what concrete mass nouns denote and how one is to give truth conditions for sentences containing them. I ignore for the most part ‘abstract mass nouns’ and ‘mass adjectives’, but see below.


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  1. 1.
    It should also be pointed out that blue water is a liquid turns out meaningless, but I think that on reflection this will be found compatible with intuition. (“How many liquids are there. and how many metals?” “Umpteen and phumpteen.” “Did you count water?” “Yes.” “How about blue water?” “Oh, I forgot.” “And red water, and green water, and…”) Of course heavy water is different; heavy is here syncategorematic and heavy water an unanalyzed mass noun.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    It would not be good to maintain that Kaplanite is a liquid might involve a nonextensional context and for that reason might not, together with Kaplanite is the same as Suppesite imply Suppesite is a liquid. No context is more paradigmatically extensional than those of the form is a and to rule such contexts nonextensional would require supplying a meaning for them other than the obvious and natural one.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    In a comprehensive treatment it is perhaps best never to assign a denotation (or at least one that is an individual) to a phrase of the form the, but rather to treat such phrases syncategorematically; see Montague (1970a) and my paper in the present volume. Nevertheless, it will cause no harm to speak, for intuitive purposes, of such phrases as sometimes denoting; then the `intuitive denotation’ of the phrase will be genuinely involved in arriving at the `real denotations’ of longer expressions containing the phrase.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1973

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard Montague
    • 1
  1. 1.University of CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA

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