Count noun


Count noun

In linguistics, a count noun (also countable noun) is a common noun that can be modified by a numeral and that occurs in both singular and plural form, as well as co-occurring with quantificational determiners like every, each, several, etc. A mass noun has none of these properties. It can't be modified by a numeral, occur in singular/plural or co-occur with the relevant kind of determiner.

Contents

Examples

Below are examples of all the properties of count nouns holding for the count noun chair but not for the mass noun furniture.

  • Occurrence in plural/singular.
There is a chair in the room.
There are chairs in the room.
✗ There is a furniture in the room.
✗ There are furnitures in the room.
Every chair is man made.
There are several chairs in the room.
Every furniture is man made.
✗ There are several furnitures in the room.

Some determiners can be used with both mass and count nouns, including "some", "a lot (of)", "no". Others cannot: "few" and "many" are used with count items, "little" and "much" with mass. (On the other hand "fewer" is reserved for count and "less" for mass (see Fewer vs. less), but "more" is the proper comparative for both "many" and "much".)

Grammatical distinction

The concept of a "mass nouns" is a grammatical concept and is not based on the innate nature of the object that the noun refers to. For example, "seven chairs" and "some furniture" could refer to exactly the same objects, with "seven chairs" referring to them as a collection of individual objects but with "some furniture" referring to them as a single undifferentiated unit. However, some abstract phenomena like "fun" and "hope" have properties which make it difficult to refer to them with a count noun.

Classifiers are sometimes used as count nouns preceding mass nouns, in order to redirect the speaker's focus away from the mass nature. For example, "There's some furniture in the room" can be restated, with a change of focus, to "There are some pieces of furniture in the room"; and "let's have some fun" can be refocused as "Let's have a bit of fun".

In English, some nouns are used most frequently as mass nouns, with or without a classifier (as in "Waiter, I'll have some coffee" or "Waiter, I'll have a cup of coffee"), but also less frequently as count nouns (as in "Waiter, we'll have three coffees.")

Theory

Following the work of logicians like Godehard Link and linguists like Manfred Krifka, we know that the mass/count distinction can be given a precise mathematical definition in terms of notions like cumulativity and quantization. Recently, a new logical framework, called plural logic, has also been used for characterizing the semantics of count nouns and mass nouns.[1]

Linguistic Differences

Some languages, such as Mandarin Chinese, treat all nouns as mass nouns, and need to make use of a noun classifier to add numerals and other quantifiers. The following examples are of nouns which, while seemingly innately countable, are still treated as mass nouns:

  • 那個人吃完了 (nà gè rén chī wán le) - "That unit person has eaten", "That person has eaten"
  • 那三個人吃完了(nà sān gè rén chī wán le) - "Those three unit person' have eaten", "Those three people have eaten"
  • 她有七本书在桌子上 (tā yŏu qī bĕn shū) - "She has seven unit book", "She has seven books."

A classifier, therefore, implies that the object(s) referred to are countable in the sense that the speaker intends them to be enumerated, rather than considered as a unit (regardless of quantity). Notice that the classifier changes as the unit being counted changes.

Words such as "milk" or "rice" are not so obviously countable entities, but they can be counted with an appropriate unit of measure in both English and Mandarin (e.g., "glasses of milk" or "spoonfuls of rice").

The use of a classifier is similar to, but not identical with, the use of units of measurement to count groups of objects in English. For example, in "three shelves of books", "shelves" is used as a unit of measurement.

References

  1. ^ Nicolas, D. (2008). "Mass nouns and plural logic". Linguistics and Philosophy 31 (2): 211–244. doi:10.1007/s10988-008-9033-2. http://hal.archives-ouvertes.fr/docs/00/28/55/22/PDF/Nicolas-Mass-nouns-and-plural-logic-Revised-2.pdf. Retrieved 2009-12-27. 

See also


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • count noun — noun a noun that forms plurals • Hypernyms: ↑noun * * * noun Etymology: count (II) : a noun that forms a plural and is used with a numeral, with words such as many or few, or in English with the indefinite article a or …   Useful english dictionary

  • count noun — count nouns N COUNT A count noun is a noun such as bird , chair , or year which has a singular and a plural form and is always used after a determiner in the singular. Syn: countable noun …   English dictionary

  • count noun — count ,noun noun count a COUNTABLE noun …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • count noun — noun (OED 1952) a noun which is used to refer to things that can be counted. Examples: woman, stone, tree, dollar. Syn: countable noun Ant: mass noun, non count noun, uncountable noun …   Wiktionary

  • count noun — ► NOUN ▪ a noun that can form a plural and, in the singular, can be used with the indefinite article, e.g. books, a book. Contrasted with MASS NOUN(Cf. ↑mass noun) …   English terms dictionary

  • Count noun — (dt. „zählbares Nomen“, dieser Begriff ist jedoch kaum etabliert) heißt in der Sprachwissenschaft ein Nomen, das zählbar ist, d. h., das mit Numeralia (zwei, drei, vier Tiere) und Quantifizierern (kein, jedes, manches Tier) kombiniert werden kann …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • count noun — n a noun that has both a singular and plural form and can be used with a or an →↑noun …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • count noun — count′ noun n. gram. a noun, as apple, table, or birthday, that typically refers to a countable thing and that in English can be used in both the singular and the plural and can be preceded by the indefinite article a or an and by numerals… …   From formal English to slang

  • count noun — ☆ count noun n. a noun denoting something that is countable: it can form a plural and be preceded by a or an or a numeral (Ex.: dog, tree, idea): cf. MASS NOUN …   English World dictionary

  • count noun — UK / US noun [countable] Word forms count noun : singular count noun plural count nouns linguistics a countable noun …   English dictionary