Individuation, reliability, and the mass/count distinction

Peter R Sutton, Hana Filip
2017 Journal of Language Modelling  
Counting in natural language presupposes that we can successfully identify what counts as one, which, as we argue, relies on how and whether one can balance two pressures on learning nominal predicates, which we formalise in probabilistic and information theoretic terms: individuation (establishing a schema for judging what counts as one with respect to a predicate); and reliability (establishing a reliable criterion for applying a predicate). This hypothesis has two main consequences. First,
more » ... e mass/count distinction in natural language is a complex phenomenon that is partly grounded in a theory of individuation, which we contend must integrate particular qualitative properties of entities, among which a key role is played by those that rely on our spatial perception. Second, it allows us to predict when we can expect the puzzling variation in mass/count lexicalization, cross-and intralinguistically: namely, exactly when the two learning pressures of individuation and reliability conflict. 1 introduction This paper attempts to combine state of the art research on the mass/count distinction in formal semantics with the cutting edge research in Type Theory with Records that provides a unified representation of cognitive, perceptual, and linguistic information. This allows * This research was funded by the German Research Association (DFG), CRC 991, project C09. We would like to thank the attendees of the TYTLES workshop at ESSLLI 2015 and the CLASP research seminar. In particular, Robin Cooper, Simon Dobnik, and Shalom Lappin for many helpful discussions. [ 307 ] [ 308 ] [ 311 ]
doi:10.15398/jlm.v5i2.144 fatcat:qlm76uy345adhiortrmcv2tvsy