Some cross-linguistic aspects of bare NP distribution

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This paper shows that Modern Hebrew bare singular kind-denoting NPs, although superficially similar to kind-denoting bare singulars in Brazilian Portuguese, are in fact different in terms of distribution and interpretation. While bare singulars in Brazilian Portuguese are not restricted to a particular group of nouns, bare singulars in Modern Hebrew are restricted to nouns denoting species and subspecies and a few other well-defined kinds. Further, Brazilian Portuguese allows bare singulars to appear relatively freely in all argument positions, while Modern Hebrew restricts bare singular kind-denoting terms to arguments of kind-level properties or relations. We use this to argue for two sorts of kinds, and thus two sorts of kind-denoting terms. Intensional expressions as proposed in Chierchia (1998a, b) denote kinds identified through cross-world regularities. Non-intensional expressions, which are rigid in the sense of Kripke (1972), denote taxonomic or encyclopedic kinds, which are singular individuals given in the domain of discourse. Our general conclusion is that cross-linguistically, bare singulars do not constitute a uniform phenomenon.


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