Counting Construcions and Coercion: Container, Portion and Measure Interpretations

  • Peter R. Sutton
  • Hana Filip


Counting constructions with mass terms like ‘two beers’ have at least two coerced interpretations depending on context. For example, ‘two beers’ can have either a container (count) interpretation of ‘two glasses filled with beer’ or a portion (count) interpretation of ‘two portions of beer, each (equivalent to) the contents of one glass’. The intriguing puzzle we address, which has escaped attention, is why it is hard to get a measure (mass) interpretation of ‘beer to the amount of two glassfuls’, despite the fact that this and the other two interpretations are available for full pseudo-partitives such as ‘two glasses of beer’. Our proposal rests on an idea, backed up by co-predication data, that the measure interpretation is derived from the portion interpretation. It follows from this that coerced measure interpretations of counting constructions with mass terms would require coercing an implicit portion concept such as GLASS into a measure interpretation, something which, we argue, cannot easily be done.