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Dutch collective nouns and conceptual profiling

By Frank Joosten, Gert De Sutter, Denis Drieghe, Stef Grondelaers, Robert J. Hartsuiker and Dirk Speelman

Abstract

Collective nouns such as committee, family, or team are conceptually (and in English also syntactically) complex in the sense that they are both singular (‘one’) and plural (‘more than one’): they refer to a multiplicity that is conceptualised as a unity. In this article, which focuses on Dutch collective nouns, it is argued that some collective nouns are rather ‘one’, whereas others are rather ‘more than one’. Collective nouns are shown to be different from one another in member level accessibility. Whereas all collective nouns have both a conceptual collection level (‘one’) and a conceptual member level (‘more than one’), the latter is not always conceptually profiled (i.e. focused on) to the same extent. A gradient is sketched in which collective nouns such as bemanning (‘crew’) (member level highly accessible) and vereniging (‘association’) (member level scarcely accessible) form the extremes. Arguments in favour of the conceptual phenomenon of variable member level accessibility derive from an analysis of property distribution, from corpus research on verbal and pronominal singular-plural variation, and from a psycholinguistic eyetracking experiment

Topics: BF
Year: 2007
OAI identifier: oai:eprints.soton.ac.uk:144837
Provided by: e-Prints Soton

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