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Classifiers make a difference: Kind interpretation and plurality in Hungarian

Brigitta R. Schvarcz; Borbála Nemes

This paper provides an analysis of Hungarian sortal classifiers, shedding light on
the complex interplay between classifiers, plurality and kind interpretation in the
language. We build on Schvarcz & Rothstein’s (2017) approach to the mass/count
distinction, providing further evidence for noun flexibility. We show that Num+N
and Num+CL+N constructions have different interpretations; in particular, kind
interpretation tells the two apart. We provide evidence against plural-as-a-classifier
(Dékány 2011) and number-neutrality (Erbach et al. 2019) views and argue that
classifier optionality can be accounted for by the predictions the Nominal
Mapping Parameter (Chierchia 1998b) makes with respect to bare singular nouns. We
claim that Hungarian nominals are born as kind-denoting expressions which then
can undergo a kind-to-predicate shift explicitly triggered by a sortal individuating
classifier. We analyze classifiers in Hungarian as functional operators on kinds of
type ⟨k, ⟨e, t⟩⟩, which apply to kind denoting terms generating instantiations of that
kind.

 

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