A vagueness based analysis of abstract nouns

  • Halima Husić


The count/mass distinction is a widely discussed topic across languages and linguistic theories have covered a great part of peculiarities which appear in relation to this phe- nomenon. Abstract nouns have often been left out of consideration, possibly due to the fact that their reference is abstract and the application of some relevant features of count or mass reference, such as cumulativity, divisiveness or atomicity, does not seem to be possible. This paper presents a thorough study of lexical features of a subset of abstract nouns and their distribution in COCA which suggests that countability in abstract nouns has to be determined relative to their semantic category. Focusing on eventuality denoting nominals which comprise a substantial part of abstract nouns, I argue that these nouns resemble concrete nouns in that the countability distinctions are expressed in surprising similarity. I find that the core feature underlying the distinction between abstract count and abstract mass nouns is the vagueness of the minimal components, an approach pursued by Chierchia (2010) for concrete nouns. The minimal components of the count eventualities appear to be stable in all precisifications, unlike those of mass eventualities which are not determined and vary.
How to Cite
Husić, H. (2020). A vagueness based analysis of abstract nouns. Proceedings of Sinn Und Bedeutung, 24(1), 359-376. https://doi.org/10.18148/sub/2020.v24i1.872