Studies in European and American Cultures Issue 14
2007-10-01 発行

名詞句の可算性と不可算性の区別 : 言語比較の観点から

Count/Mass Distinction in Japanese Nouns : A Contrastive Approach
It is widely assumed that nouns in Chinese/Japanese-type languages are mass nouns because they lack plural morphemes and indefinite articles (Chierchia 1998). In this paper, I disagree with this view and claim that Japanese also makes a distinction between count and mass by showing that the distinction manifests in numeral-noun combinations ("heitai hyaku": 100 soldiers vs. "*sekiyu hyaku": *100 oils) and quantificational expressions, e.g. "tasuu" ("tasuu-no kuruma": many cars vs. "*tasuu-no tetsu": "many iron).

Many philosophers and linguists have discussed the question of whether the count/mass distinction is derived semantically or syntactically, i.e. whether it is determined by the ontology (individual/object → count; stuff → mass) or by language specific forms (count → individual/object; mass → stuff). If it were true that Japanese has only mass nouns then it would be just a mysterious coincidence that there are languages with mass nouns only but there is no language that has only count nouns. This fact suggests that there must be common features between languages with a count/mass distinction and ones without such a distinction. Specifically, some sort of "mass" nouns in the second type language indicate the properties of "count" nouns, i.e. the ones of object mass nouns like "furniture" or "footwear" which contain their minimal parts although they are classified as mass nouns.

Obviously, Japanese nouns do not have a singular/plural distinction. Therefore this language cannot have genuine count nouns. Japanese nouns start from kinds of objects which semantically correspond to entities, and are freely type-shifted to predicate types. e.g. substance mass nouns like "mizu (water)" or object mass nouns like "inu" (dog(s)) which behave as object mass nouns in English. I argue that this distinction is a reflection of the general cognitive property that distinguishes individual items which have their minimal part as a counting basis for nominal reference from non-individual mass items which lack a minimal part.