Mass counts in World Englishes: A corpus linguistic study of noun countability in non-native varieties of English


Research on the morpho-syntax of non-native varieties of English has reported a widespread presence of mass noun pluralization such as baggages, equipments and softwares. In this paper we conducted a corpus linguistic study in order to provide empirically substantiated answers to this claim. We examined the purported prevalence of noun countability in World Englishes in a 1.9 billion-token mega-corpus of global varieties of English. In a comparison of native and non-native varieties of English, first we algorithmically isolated nouns that are more frequently pluralized in non-native varieties. The results indicate a continuum of non-native English countability, along which mass nouns occupy the most extreme tail of inflated occurrences of noun pluralization. In an exploratory analysis, we then examined the similarity in noun countability behaviour across non-native varieties of English. This analysis revealed that geographically proximate countries in which non-native varieties of English are spoken are most similar in the extent to which they pluralize nouns. We argue that noun-countability is a phenomenon best viewed as a gradient that is also regionally dependent.

In Corpus Linguistics and Linguistic Theory, (13)1, 135-164.