What's the smallest part of spinach? A new experimental approach to the count/mass distinction

Sea Hee Choi, Tania Ionin


This paper reports on a study that uses a novel methodology, the minimal part identification task, in order to probe the relationship between morphosyntax and interpretation. English, Korean and Mandarin Chinese differ from one another with regard to the count/mass distinction. Building on prior research but using a new methodology, this study examines whether speakers of these three languages also differ in how they interpret count vs. mass nouns. The findings, while uncovering some language-specific effects of morphosyntax, point to the importance of universality, and suggest that interpretation drives morphosyntax rather than the other way around.


atomicity; count/mass distinction; English; Korean; Mandarin Chinese

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.3765/elm.1.4867

Copyright (c) 2021 Sea Hee Choi, Tania Ionin

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