In this paper I propose and formalize a theory of the mass-count distinction in which the denotations of count nouns are built from non-overlapping generators, while the denotations of mass nouns are built from overlapping generators. Counting is counting of generators, and it will follow that counting is only correct on count denotations. I will show that the theory allows two kinds of mass nouns: mess mass nouns with denotations built from overlapping minimal generators, and neat mass nouns with denotations built from overlapping generators, where the overlap is not located in the minimal generators. Prototypical mass nouns like meat and mud are of the first kind. I will argue that mass nouns like furniture and kitchenware are of the second type. I will discuss several phenomena—all involving one way or the other explicitly or implicitly individual classifiers like stuks in Dutch—that show that both distinctions mass/count and mess/neat are linguistically robust. I will show in particular that nouns like kitchenware pattern in various ways like count nouns, and not like mess mass nouns, and that these ways naturally involve the neat structure of their denotation. I will also show that they are real mass nouns: they can involve measures in the way mess mass nouns can and count nouns cannot. I will discuss grinding interpretations of count nouns, here rebaptized fission interpretations, and argue that these interpretations differ in crucial ways from the interpretations of lexical mass nouns. The paper will end with a foundational problem raised by fission interpretations, and in the course of this, atomless interpretation domains will re-enter the scene through the back door.

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