Are superordinates such as furniture and belongings collective nouns?
One area of debate as to the boundaries of the class of “collective nouns” concerns non-count singular nouns such as furniture, which are typically used for several units of different kinds. Arguments for and against inclusion have been put forward, but ultimately, what has been noted is a number of similarities and differences compared with count collective nouns. This makes both positions as legitimate, especially as collective nouns are a partly heterogeneous class (e.g. only those denoting humans, or sometimes animals, license plural override: the committee were… vs. *the bouquet were…). The present paper addresses the issue from a different angle, comparing furniture nouns not just with other singular nouns (whether collective or superordinate), but with count nouns in the plural (e.g. toys). This new angle enables us to propose that furniture nouns are superordinate hyperonyms of plural, rather than singular, categories. This notion accounts for all the similarities and differences noted between furniture nouns and count collective nouns, and leads to the conclusion that furniture nouns are clearly not collective nouns. The analysis is then extended to non-count plural nouns that denote units (e.g. belongings), which have been neglected, or sometimes rejected on arbitrary grounds. The present study shows that they are not collective nouns either, and that they, too, are superordinates, some of them hyperonyms of plural categories.
Keywords: collective nouns,
, categorisation, hyperonyms, superordinates
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