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Plural Mass Nouns and the Construal of Individuation: Crosslinguistic Evidence from Verbal and Nonverbal Behaviour in Labelling and Non-labelling Contexts

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Considering the third time frame of the thinking-for-speaking hypothesis (TFS), online language use affects subsequent nonverbal categorical perception preferences (Slobin 2003); according to the universalist view, nonverbal cognitive thinking is arranged in universal conceptual structures underlying surface crosslinguistic differentiations (Imai & Gentner 1997). In the present study, we examined crosslinguistic differences in the expression of noun countability in Greek and English speakers. In a verbal task, Greek speakers pluralized mass nouns more than English speakers; consistent with the universal object/substance ontological distinction, both Greek and English speakers differentiated between objects and substances in a nonverbal object matching task, selecting shape for objects and material for substances. However, only in Greek speakers pluralizing mass nouns in the verbal task significantly predicted their preferences for matching substances by shape in the nonverbal task. The findings are discussed considering whether linguistic context differentially affects the performance of speakers crosslinguistically and in specific tasks.

Affiliations: 1: PhD Candidate in Cognitive Linguistics, Department of Theoretical and Applied Linguistics, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece, ; 2: Department of Linguistics and English Language, Lancaster University, United Kingdom,


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