Conversions of count nouns into mass nouns in French: the roles of semantic and pragmatic factors in their interpretations

Abstract : In many languages, common nouns are divided into two morpho-syntactic subclasses, count nouns and mass nouns (the latter, but not the former, being invariable in grammatical number). Yet in certain contexts, count nouns can be used as if they were mass nouns. This linguistic phenomenon is called conversion. In this paper, we consider the conversions of count nouns into mass nouns in French. First, we identify a general semantic constraint that must be respected in these conversions, and various cases in which a count noun can be used as a mass noun. Second, we examine the effects that semantic and pragmatic factors play in their interpretation. More precisely, we try to determine whether there are specific conventions for interpreting count -> mass conversions in French. Several arguments are discussed, having to do with considerations of theoretical economy, so-called "ambiguity tests", differences among languages as to what interpretations are available for conversions, and the strong feeling of conventionality of some uses. This leads us to postulate the existence of a number of specific conventions for interpreting conversions in French.
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David Nicolas. Conversions of count nouns into mass nouns in French: the roles of semantic and pragmatic factors in their interpretations. 2002. ⟨ijn_00000623v2⟩

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