Oliver Bott and Janina Radó  

Processing quantifiers: Experimental evidence against underspecified representations of quantifier scope  


In this talk we present two experiments that investigate the on-line interpretation of sentences with so-called inverse linking constructions such as "exactly one animal on every card".  We measured reading times while comprehenders read scope ambiguous sentences with two quantifiers in configurations involving scope conflict.  In experiment 1 visual displays were used to assess comprehenders' preferred interpretation of such sentences.  The results provide initial evidence for scope interpretation already during reading.  In experiment 2 readers were instructed to indicate whether the sentence is at all compatible with the disambiguating picture presented after the sentence.  To avoid scope reanalysis perceivers should delay scope interpretation and maintain an underspecified representation. Contrary to this prediction, indications of scope conflict were again present already during reading, ie. well before the disambiguation.  Taken together, the experiments provide evidence for immediate scope assignment.  We will also address the question of a minimal domain necessary for scope interpretation.