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Frontiers of Philosophy in China

Front. Philos. China    2014, Vol. 9 Issue (4) : 498-522
Numeral Classifiers and the White Horse Paradox
Byeong-uk Yi()
Department of Philosophy, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON M5R 2M8, Canada Department of Philosophy, Kyung Hee University, Seoul 130-701, Republic of Korea
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This paper presents an interpretation of Gongsun Long’s white horse paradox. The Chinese sentence he uses to state his main thesis (Bai ma fei ma) has two potential readings: (a) The white horses are not horses. (b) The white horses are not the horses. Although (a) gives the usual and correct reading of the sentence, according to the interpretation, Gongsun Long takes it to state (b). He gives good arguments for (b) while taking them to establish (a) as well, for he fails to distinguish between the two different theses. In presenting this interpretation, the paper gives an account of the function of numeral classifiers and discusses the semantics of count nouns in languages with no grammatical number system, including classical Chinese and classifier languages (e.g., contemporary Chinese).

Keywords Gongsun Long      White Horse Dialogue      white horse paradox      numeral classifier      classifier language      mass noun thesis      bare noun     
Issue Date: 11 December 2014
 Cite this article:   
Byeong-uk Yi. Numeral Classifiers and the White Horse Paradox[J]. Front. Philos. China, 2014, 9(4): 498-522.
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