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Mass Expressions

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Part of the Synthese Library book series (SYLI,volume 167)

Abstract

Problems associated with mass expressions can be divided into the following general areas: (1) distinguishing a class of mass expressions, (2) describing the syntax of this class, (3) describing the formal semantics of this class, (4) explicating the ontology such a class of expressions presupposes, and (5) accounting for various epistemological issues involving our perception of the ontology. Permeating all these areas are questions of the role of pragmatics (construed broadly so as to encompass questions of how people typically use mass expressions to describe a state of affairs) in formal semantic descriptions. For example, if people normally use expression x in such-and-such circumstances (or normally take a use of x to imply y), should that have some reflex in the syntax, the semantics, the presupposed ontology, etc.? The “problems of mass expressions” therefore provides a rich area in which to formulate and test various logico-linguistic theories. In this article we indicate (what we take to be) the more important problems and puzzles, survey some suggested solutions, indicate what we think are outstanding difficulties with those approaches, and make a few not-well-defended suggestions of our own to these problems and puzzles. A bibliography of most work on mass expressions prior to 1978 can be found in Pelletier (1979b).

Keywords

  • Mass Term
  • Noun Phrase
  • Syntactic Feature
  • Mass Noun
  • Syntactic Rule

These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Pelletier, F.J., Schubert, L.K. (1989). Mass Expressions. In: Handbook of Philosophical Logic. Synthese Library, vol 167. Springer, Dordrecht. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-009-1171-0_4

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