Bridges between Psychology and Linguistics: A Swarthmore Festschrift for Lila Gleitman

By Donna Jo Napoli; Judy Anne Kegl | Go to book overview

10 Linearity as a Scope Principle for Chinese: The Evidence from First Language Acquisition

Thomas Hun-tak Lee
The Chinese University of Hong Kong


INTRODUCTION

In the linguistics and philosophy literature, it has long been observed that a salient property of quantifier noun phrases (QNP) such as a babysitter, two strings, every child lies in their ability to exhibit relative scope (cf. e.g., Keenan, 1971, Lakoff, 1971, Quine, 1960).1 This can be illustrated by the English sentence (1), which contains two QNPs--a babysitter and every child. Depending on which QNP falls within the scope of the other, (1) can have two interpretations, given in (2a) and (2b).

A babysitter looks after every child.

a. There is a x = babysitter such that for all y = child, x looks after y.

b. For all y = child, there is a x = babysitter such that x looks after y.

In the interpretation (2a), every child is within the scope of a babysitter; the former is said to have narrow scope, whereas the latter has wide scope: It is the same babysitter who looks after every child. In the reading represented by (2b), where a babysitter has narrow scope, the choice of referent depends on the choice of the child: Different babysitters may look after different children.2

____________________
1
The relative scope property is of course not restricted to QNPs. Other quantificational elements such as negators, adverbs, and modals also display relative scope. This study focuses on the relative scope of QNPs.
2
A scope-independent reading in which the referents of the two QNPs are determined separately is also possible (see Kempson & Cormack, 1981). Given a universal quantifier and an existential quantifier, the wide scope reading of the existential QNP is indistinguishable from the scopeindependent reading of the sentence. This paper is concerned with the possibilities of scopedifferentiated readings.

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