Cross-Linguistic Evidence for Semantic Countability

Eun-Joo Kwak 1 ,
Author Information & Copyright
1Sejong University, Korea
Corresponding Author : Eun-Joo Kwak, Department of English Language and Literature, Sejong University, Seoul, Korea Phone: +82-2-3408-3633; Email:

Copyright ⓒ 2016, Sejong University Language Research Institue. This is an Open-Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Received: Aug 14, 2014; Revised: Sep 03, 2014; Accepted: Sep 10, 2014

Published Online: Jan 01, 2017


Countability and plurality (or singularity) are basically marked in syntax or morphology, and languages adopt different strategies in the mass-count distinction and number marking: plural marking, unmarked number marking, singularization, and different uses of classifiers. Diverse patterns of grammatical strategies are observed with cross-linguistic data in this study. Based on this, it is concluded that although countability is not solely determined by the semantic properties of nouns, it is much more affected by semantics than it appears. Moreover, semantic features of nouns are useful to account for apparent idiosyncratic behaviors of nouns and sentences.

Keywords: countability; plurality; countability shift; individuation; animacy; classifier



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