The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

LFRG 2/23 - Ayaka Sugawara

Speaker: Ayaka Sugawara
Time: Monday 2/23, 12-1:30pm
Place: 32-D831
Title: Acquisition of quantifier scope: Evidence from English Rise-Fall-Rise

Since Musolino (1998), many studies have reported that children trend to interpret sentences such as in (1a) to mean the LF illustrated in (1b), not the LF in (1c), which adults do not have trouble accessing (Musolino et al. 2000, Musolino & Lidz 2006, Viau et al. 2010, a.o.).

(1) a. Every house didn’t jump over the fence.
b. For every horse x, x did not jump over the fence.
c. It is not the case that for every house x, x jumped over the fence.

Meanwhile, at least since Jespersen (1933) it has been pointed out that different prosodic contours will/can differentiate readings in such sentences (Jackendoff 1972, Büring 1997, 2003, Constant 2012, 2014 a.o.; Cf. Ward and Hirschberg 1985). Specifically, sentences with L+H* on the Contrastive Topic (ALL in (2b)) and L-H% on the IntP (sentence-final in (2b)) will only have the reading where negation takes scope over the universal quantifier. (I will refer to the contour for (2b) as Rise-Fall-Rise, following Constant 2012.)

(2) a. All my friends didn’t come.
b. ALL my friends didn’t come…

In this experiment with children (Picture-selection Task), I investigate whether children are sensitive to the difference in prosody that conveys different readings. The results show that children are indeed sensitive – with “Falling” contour where the sentence-final L-H% is not observed, children picked pictures with “not>all (and some)” over “all>not” pictures 30% of the time, on the other hand with “Rise-Fall-Rise” contour, children picked “not>all (and some)” pictures over “all>not” pictures 70% of the time.