The criteria for a sortal from Wikipedia:

  • gives a criterion for counting the items of that kind
  • gives a criterion of identity and non-identity among items of that kind
  • gives a criterion for the continued existence of an item of that kind
  • answers the question "what is it?" for things of that kind
  • specifies the essence of things of that kind
  • does not apply to parts of things of that kind

That seem like the things I would also need to know to know what things to regard as tokens of a given type.

So how do the concepts of sortals and of tokens differ from each other?


Sortals are words. Types are logical groupings. Otherwise they are very similar. The sort is a type, but the sortal is a term in a language.

| improve this answer | |
  • 1
    You mean to say that sortals denote the words that denote specific types. E.g. Chair is a sortal for the type that includes all tokens of chairs? – Hal Mar 13 '14 at 19:12
  • 1
    yep a "sortal" is a word that tells you what sort the thing you're talking about belongs too. There are different kinds of sortals as well. – user5172 Mar 13 '14 at 19:15
  • So why is it limited to count nouns? I mean 'water' is a sort of thing. – Hal Mar 13 '14 at 19:18
  • 1
    "water" is a mass term. "This is a water" is ungrammatical. – user5172 Mar 13 '14 at 19:19
  • True. But how is that philosophically interesting? – Hal Mar 13 '14 at 19:19

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.