Department of Computer Science and Technology

Technical reports

Mass terms and plurals: from linguistic theory to natural language processing

F.V. Hasle

June 1988, 171 pages

DOI: 10.48456/tr-137


Two linguistic theories within the tradition of formal semantics are investigated. One is concerned with mass terms, and the other with plurals.

Special attention is paid to the possibility of implementing the theories on a computer. With this goal in mind their basic ideas are examined, and the linguistic implications are discussed. In the process, various features of the theories are made formally precise. This leads to two formal systems, one for representing the meanings of sentences with mass terms, and another similar one for plurals. The systems are specified by machine-executable translation relations from fragments of natural language into logical representations.

The underlying model-theoretic semantics of each theory is partially axiomatised. From the axiomatisations all of the paradigmatic inferences of each theory can be proved in a purely deductive manner. This is demanstrated by a number of rigorous proofs of natural language inferences.

Finally some methodological issues are raised. Both theories recommend a particular approach within formal semantics for natural language. I explore the methodological views underlying the theories, and discuss whether the authors actually follow the methods which they recommend.

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BibTeX record

  author =	 {Hasle, F.V.},
  title = 	 {{Mass terms and plurals: from linguistic theory to natural
         	   language processing}},
  year = 	 1988,
  month = 	 jun,
  url = 	 {},
  institution =  {University of Cambridge, Computer Laboratory},
  doi = 	 {10.48456/tr-137},
  number = 	 {UCAM-CL-TR-137}