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This chapter provides a history of theorizing about the count-mass distinction, a summary of the many different syntactic and semantic tests that are used to characterize the distinction, and summaries of the different chapters in this volume.
In this paper, we discuss the implications for theories of the count/mass distinction that can be derived from the development of a large lexicon of English count and mass noun sense pairs, the Bochum English Countability Lexicon (BECL). The development of a lexicon for count and mass senses makes it possible that research on the count/mass distinction moves away from individual nouns and takes lexical variation into account. We focus on different types of ambiguity. The most important finding is that English shows a rather small class of nouns which are truly ambiguous with regard to the count/mass distinction, but not in any other respect. We suggest that these nouns show how the count/mass distinction is introduced into a language (which rests on the plausible assumption that all nouns begin their lives as mass nouns). The addition of denotational structure to provide individuation leads to an eventual petrification, which accounts for the somewhat surprising fact that there are many more count than mass nouns.
A classical viewpoint claims that reality consists of both things and stuff, and that we need a way to discuss these aspects of reality. This is achieved by using +count terms to talk about things while using +mass terms to talk about stuff. Bringing together contributions from internationally-renowned experts across interrelated disciplines, this book explores the relationship between mass and count nouns in a number of syntactic environments, and across a range of languages. It both explains how languages differ in their methods for describing these two fundamental categories of reality, and shows the many ways that modern linguistics looks to describe them. It also explores how the notions of count and mass apply to 'abstract nouns', adding a new dimension to the countability discussion. With its pioneering approach to the fundamental questions surrounding mass-count distinction, this book will be essential reading for researchers in formal semantics and linguistic typology.
Suppose you need to send an express courier package to a colleague who is away at a conference. You believe that whenever she is in New York City and the New York Rangers are playing a home game, she stays at the Westin Mid-Manhattan Hotel. You also believe that she is in New York City this weekend and that the Rangers are playing this weekend as well. You call up the Westin Mid-Manhattan Hotel and you find out that she isn't there. Something doesn't fit. What do you believe now? Well, assuming that you accept the hotel's word that she isn't there, there are various (logically consistent) ways to reconcile the contradiction between what you used to believe and this new information. First, you could believe that she is in New York City and that the Rangers are indeed playing, but disbelieve the conditional that says whenever both of these are true, then she stays at the Westin Mid-Manhattan Hotel. Alternatively, you could continue to believe the conditional, but decide that either she isn't in New York this weekend or that the Rangers aren't playing a home game (or possibly both). Which do you choose as your new set of beliefs?
Belief change – the process by which a rational agent makes the transition from one belief state to another – is an important component for most intelligent activity done by epistemic agents, both human and artificial.