Do all languages make countability distinctions? Evidence from Nez Perce

  • Amy Rose Deal

Abstract

At first glance, Nez Perce looks like a language lacking any correlate of the traditional mass-count distinction. All Nez Perce nouns behave like canonical count nouns in three ways: all nouns combine with numerals without an overt measure phrase, all NPs may host plural features, and all NPs may host adjectives like big and small. I show that Nez Perce nevertheless makes two countability distinctions in noun semantics. A sums-based (cumulativity) distinction is revealed in the interaction of quantifiers with plural; a parts-based (divisiveness) distinction is revealed in certain quantity judgments. Both types of evidence involve complex structures to which language learners likely have little to no actual exposure. I suggest that Nez Perce furnishes a poverty of the stimulus argument in favor of semantic countability distinctions as a language universal.
How to Cite
Deal, A. R. (1). Do all languages make countability distinctions? Evidence from Nez Perce. Proceedings of Sinn Und Bedeutung, 20, 180-197. Retrieved from https://ojs.ub.uni-konstanz.de/sub/index.php/sub/article/view/258