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Count nouns and the semantics of counting

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This paper argues that more information is necessary for counting than is necessary for individuation. We distinguish between natural atoms which are individuals which come with apparently built in-criteria for what counts as 1 and semantic atoms where the information about what counts as 1 is specified explicitly as part of the meaning. Not all natural atoms are semantic atoms and not all semantic atoms are natural atoms. Count nouns denote sets of semantic atoms. Mass nouns may or may not denote sets of natural atoms, but never denote sets of semantic atoms. The conclusion is that while individuation is part of our non-linguistic conceptual apparatus, counting is a grammatical/linguistic process.

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