Are there any languages making a grammatical distinction between abstract and concrete nouns?
I suppose this should boil down to the question about the existence of languages having a morpheme signalling an abstract or concrete noun but you never know (maybe there are some crazy ones making the distinction with word order, phonology...)

  • 2
    There are languages that have abstract, collective etc. noun grammemes (i.e. grammatical markers) but I think you need an example of a binary opposition?
    – Alex B.
    Sep 6, 2016 at 0:48
  • Not an accurate answer to your question, but Japanese verbs aru and iru have -human and +human participants in binary semantics approach.
    – Eray Erdin
    Sep 6, 2016 at 9:00
  • In some languages, such as Greek, abstract nouns tend to be one particular gender/class. I don't know of any languages with a class used only for abstract nouns, but it seems like something that could well exist in the thousands of minority languages out there.
    – curiousdannii
    Sep 6, 2016 at 13:11
  • Abstract nouns in English tend to be mass nouns.
    – Mitch
    Sep 6, 2016 at 13:53

1 Answer 1


Some verbs in Russian, like iskat', search for, uses the accusative case for specific objects like "I'm looking for a book" and the genitive case for abstract objects like "I'm looking for peace and quiet". Ya ishchu knigu vs Ya ishchu mira I tishiny.

  • what makes "a book" less abstract than "peace and quiet"?
    – mobileink
    Sep 9, 2016 at 0:00
  • Thanks... But quiet is quite concrete
    – jaam
    Sep 9, 2016 at 17:50
  • @jaam: not if "concrete" involves senses. you can't hear silence.
    – mobileink
    Sep 9, 2016 at 19:23
  • @mobileink Really? If you hear nothing, you hear silence
    – jaam
    Sep 9, 2016 at 19:37
  • @jaam: what is it to "hear nothing"?
    – mobileink
    Sep 9, 2016 at 19:38

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