Department of Computer Science and Technology

Technical reports

Some notes on mass terms and plurals

Ann Copestake

January 1990, 65 pages


This report describes a short investigation into some possible treatments of mass nouns and plurals. It aims to provide a grammar and axiomatisation with a reasonable coverage of these phenomena, so that a range of sentences can be parsed, and inferences made automatically.

The previous work on the subject, mainly due to Hasle (1988) is reviewed, and the limitations of both the original theories and Hasle’s implementation are demonstrated. Some more recent work, especially that relevant to Link’s theory, is also discussed.

The present grammar and axiomatisation is described. Although it is not the implementation of any particular theory, it draws on the work of Link, Krifka and Roberts. Some of the problems with the present approach are discussed, although possible solutions would need to be considered in a wider context. The aim is to show what types of phenomena can be treated by a relatively simple approach.

The implemented grammar covers everything that was treated by Hasle’s implementation, and extends that coverage in a varietry of ways, while providing a better integration of the treatment of mass nouns and plurals than the earlier work. It was written in the CFG+ formalism, and some parts of the axiomatisation have been tested using the HOL system.

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BibTeX record

  author =	 {Copestake, Ann},
  title = 	 {{Some notes on mass terms and plurals}},
  year = 	 1990,
  month = 	 jan,
  url = 	 {},
  institution =  {University of Cambridge, Computer Laboratory},
  number = 	 {UCAM-CL-TR-190}