The pragmatics of count-mass polysemy
Ingrid Lossius Falkum (University of Oslo)

part of: Polysemy, concepts and representation
May 23, 2024, 2:00pm - 3:30pm
IFIKK, University of Oslo

Seminarrom 4, Sophus Bugges hus
Niels Henrik Abels vei 36,
Oslo 0313

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University of Oslo
Norwegian University of Science and Technology
University of Oslo

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In this talk I discuss a subtype of systematic polysemy which in English (and several other languages) appears to rest on the distinction between count and mass uses of nouns (e.g., shoot a rabbit/eat rabbit/wear rabbit). Traditional computational semantic approaches have analysed such sense alternations as being generated by an inventory of specialized lexical inference rules. In this talk I discuss some evidence that the linguistic component provided by count-mass syntax leaves a more underspecified semantic output than is usually acknowledged by rule-based theories, and argue in favor of an analysis which treats count-mass syntax as a procedural constraint on NP referents, combined with a single, relevance-guided lexical pragmatic mechanism that can cover the same ground as lexical rules, as well as those cases in which rule-based accounts need to appeal to pragmatics.

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