Typology of Quantifiers and the Mass/Count Distinction: A Case Study of Chinese xie

Kyumin Kim 1 ,
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1Cheongju University
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ⓒ Copyright 2017 Language Education Institute, Seoul National University. This is an Open-Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Received: Oct 24, 2017 ; Revised: Nov 26, 2017 ; Accepted: Dec 06, 2017

Published Online: Dec 31, 2017


In a recent approach to the internal structure of nominals, all nouns across languages are proposed to be mass, and thus need to be portioned out (i.e., divided) in order to interact with the count system (Borer 2005): in syntax, division is performed via a Div(ided) head that takes mass noun as a complement, and Div is proposed to be instantiated by an English-type plural -s or a Chinese-type classifier. Once division is performed on a mass, the divided noun can be counted via a numeral that appears in a quantifying phrase (#P) projected above DivP. Assuming Borer (2005), this paper examines the morpheme xie ‘some’ in Chinese, and proposes that it is a non-counting quantifier instantiating a # head that takes DivP as its complement. The proposed account has consequences for the typology of quantifiers and the ongoing debate on the mass/count distinction: division does not necessarily force a counting function, and the mass/count distinction, if it exists at all, is a structural one, not a lexical one.

Keywords: Division; classifier; plural; quantifier; counting