Little Words: Their History, Phonology, Syntax, Semantics, Pragmatics, and Acquisition

By Ronald P. Leow; Héctor Campos et al. | Go to book overview

5
Motivating Floating Quantifiers

LISA ROCHMAN

Ben Gurion University

THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN information structure and prosody on the one hand and the placement of “little words” on the other, is being explored in many languages in relationship to many different linguistic phenomena. In this chapter floating quantifiers (FQs) are shown to be a prime example of little words that are influenced by both prosody and information structure.1 FQs in English are of particular interest because they are among a minority of elements that display some freedom in their placement in this fixed word-order language. This chapter investigates the relationship between FQs, information structure, and prosody and shows that FQs mark the focus and can be viewed as a type of focus marker whose placement is impacted by the prosody of the language.


Floating Quantifiers

There are three quantificational words in English that can appear in noncanonical positions, reportedly without a change in meaning: all, both, and each (Sportiche 1988).2

(1) All the children have greeted the teacher.

(2) The children (all) have (all) greeted the teacher.

In (1) the quantifier is in the canonical position for determiner quantifiers.3 In contrast, the positions in (2) can only be occupied by FQ, as other quantifiers are ruled out, for example, (3).

(3) The children (*some/*many/*every) have (*some/*many/*every) greeted the teacher.

Although informants note no difference in sentences with an FQ as opposed to a nonfloating quantifier, there are consistent patterns of usage in natural speech. The existence of these patterns indicates that the choice between the nonfloating and floating word order is not haphazard or stylistic. This chapter addressed the following two questions regarding FQs:4

(4)a.What motivates the change in word order?
b.What determines where the moved element occurs?

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