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An Interdisciplinary Journal of the Language Sciences

Editor-in-Chief: Gast, Volker

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Volume 52, Issue 2


Cross-categorial scalar properties explaining Differential Object Marking

Anne Tamm
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  • Department of Cognitive Science, Central European University, Nador u. 9, 1051 Budapest, Hungary
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Published Online: 2014-03-13 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ling-2013-0070


This article aims at a more satisfying explanation of differential object case marking (DOM), and demonstrates that a group of mass nouns displays properties that are preserved in derivation. The central tenet of all accounts relates the Finnish type accusative-partitive DOM to the distinction between mass and count noun objects. I challenge this established view by introducing new data from Estonian: deadjectival mass nouns that unexpectedly behave like count nouns in DOM. I propose an account that has a wider coverage of data and is based on the scalar and boundedness-related properties of the base adjectives of the derived abstract nouns. Typically, the unexpected count-like behavior occurs with abstract nouns that are derived from adjectives that cannot denote open scales for various lexical-semantic and pragmatic reasons. Since the semantic properties of scales as well as the pragmatic standards determining boundedness are preserved in the course of derivation, they are cross-categorial properties. These findings are also relevant in understanding of the role of lexical aspect and aspectual composition as well as the links between morphosyntax in language and norms and standards in cognition.

Keywords: cross-categorial properties; derivation; abstract nouns; partitive; scalarity; boundedness; social cognition and pragmatic standards; vagueness

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Published Online: 2014-03-13

Published in Print: 2014-03-01

Citation Information: Linguistics, Volume 52, Issue 2, Pages 469–511, ISSN (Online) 1613-396X, ISSN (Print) 0024-3949, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ling-2013-0070.

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