This study investigates the nature of the semantic differences between collexemes of singular child and plural children in a corpus of American fiction. Collexemes in three specific syntactic slots are investigated: adjectives in the attributive position, nouns grammatically possessed by child’s and children’s, and present participial forms of verbs in the position immediately to the right of child/children. The approach relies on Distinctive Collexeme Analysis to establish statistically significant differences, revealing a surprising variety of semantic distinctions not usually acknowledged in discussions of the singularity vs. plurality of count nouns. Finally, an attempt is made to relate the key findings to broader cognitive and behavioural realities.
- singularity, plurality, semantics, cognition, collexemes