We present two offline experiments on the interpretation in German and English of doubly quantified sentences with an existential subject and a universal object, which have been reported to allow for inverse readings only in English. We show for this specific syntactic configuration that there is no categorical crosslinguistic difference, but only a gradual one, with English more readily allowing for inverse scope than German. These results support a crosslinguistically unified analysis of inverse scope on which gradual differences between languages follow from language-specific properties and exposure effects. Moreover, they suggest that relative clauses with indefinite head NPs allow for inverse readings, thereby challenging the status of these clauses as scope islands (May 1977, Huang 1995), while according with introspective claims in semantic accounts (Barker 2012, 2019). Finally, our results suggest a high between-speaker variability and a strong impact of pragmatics.
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July 14 2023
An Experimental Comparison of the Availability of Inverse Scope in English and German
In Special Collection: CogNet
Online ISSN: 1530-9150
Print ISSN: 0024-3892
© 2022 by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Linguistic Inquiry 1–37.
Mareike Philipp, Malte Zimmermann; An Experimental Comparison of the Availability of Inverse Scope in English and German. Linguistic Inquiry 2023; doi: https://doi.org/10.1162/ling_a_00493
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