The singularity of indeterminates: Number specification without classifiers

Ken Hiraiwa


Japanese does not have number morphology or agreement. Thus, a bare noun like inu ‘dog’ can refer to a single dog or more than one dog, depending on contexts. This fact has raised much controversy about whether grammatical number exists in Japanese and has led some researchers to regard Japanese as a language lacking number specification in bare nouns (Chierchia 1998; Martin 1975; Nakanishi & Tomioka 2004; Nomoto 2013) and abstract number/phi agreement (Fukui 1986, 1995, Kuroda 1988; Fukui and Sakai 2003, Saito 2007, 2017, among others). Recently, however, Watanabe (2017) has provided strong evidence against such views, based on partitive interpretations of bare nouns. In this paper, I uncover yet another novel piece of evidence for grammatical number specification in Japanese from indeterminates. Surprisingly, they are obligatorily specified for singular despite the lack of number morphology or classifier.


number; indeterminates; singular/plural distinction; mass/count distinc- tion; classifiers; indefinite pronouns

Full Text:



Copyright (c) 2019 Ken Hiraiwa

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Donate to the Open-Access Fund of the LSA

Linguistic Society of America

Advancing the Scientific Study of Language since 1924

ISSN (online): 2473-8689

This publication is made available for free to readers and with no charge to authors thanks in part to your continuing LSA membership and your donations to the open access fund.