LINGUIST List 5.181

Sat 19 Feb 1994

Sum: Quantifier scope

Editor for this issue: <>




Date: Tue, 15 Feb 94 18:00:11 SSQUANTIFIER SCOPE
From: David Gil <ELLGILDNUSVM.bitnet>

A few weeks ago I posted a comment/query about quantifier scope.
Below is an abridged version of that query, followed by a summary
of the responses, and a new query.


Sentences such as

(1) Every man loves a woman

have an interpretation in which it is the same woman that every
man loves; most often that interpretation is characterized as
involving "wide scope for the direct object NP"; however, in a 1982
"Linguistics and Philosophy" article I argued that that reading is
more appropriately characterized as scopeless (a detailed summary
of that argument was provided in the original query).

I then noted that in the 12 years since that article was published, the
argument it contained has never been acknowledged; next, I offered
some possible reasons for it having been ignored: (a) the argument is
incoherent; (b) the argument is badly worded; (c) the argument is
irrelevant; (d) nobody bothered to read it. I concluded with a
solicitation of opinions as to which of the above factors -- or,
perhaps, others -- might explain why the argument has been


The comment/query generated a considerable number of responses,
which, generalizing somewhat, can be assigned to one of the
following four categories (with apologies to those who feel they don't
exactly belong to one of these categories):

(1) Numerous requests for offprints (sorry, I'm out) or information
on branching quantifiers (check out the references in my article).

(2) A few tangential but often interesting comments regarding
quantifier-scope facts in various languages.

(3) One rather lengthy comment which addressed the substance of
the argument I presented, purporting to refute every point in it, and
arguing in favour of factors (a), (b) and (c) above. (In addition, since
the writer admitted not having read the article, he also provided
evidence in support of factor (d).) Unfortunately, I couldn't
understand most of what this particular writer had to say.

But the category of response I feel is most worthy of note is:

(4) A handful of mostly sympathetic noddings of the head and
comiserations with regard to the sociology of the field, and how
difficult it is to be an "outsider", "non-mainstream", "out of the loop",
and so forth: how difficult it is to get one's stuff published, then read,
then accepted.

Hardly news -- and speaking for myself, at least, I don't really think
I would want to give up my outsider, non-mainstream, out-of-the-
loop status; it suits me just fine, thank you. However, what I found
most remarkable about this category of responses is that almost all
of them WISHED TO REMAIN ANONYMOUS. The more I ponder this
fact, the more I find it disturbing. Far be it for me to criticize the
wishes of my correspondents (and I hope I haven't betrayed their
confidences by splashing word of their existence over the list); I am
certainly quite experienced myself in having to remain mum about
all kinds of matters for all kinds of reasons. But the question I want
to raise is: what array of facts or circumstances can it be that
prompts our fellow linguists to wish to remain anonymous about
their opinions with regard to the sociology of the field, and such
things as patterns of reading, patterns of bibliographical citations,
and so forth? Are they just being overly cautious, modest, or self-
effacing, or are things really so bad that one can be denied jobs,
publication outlets, research funds, or just plain old professional
prestige for speaking out on such matters? (Or am I just making a
mountain out of a molehill?)

This time, and with the moderators' permission, I think the topic is of
sufficiently general import that responses might more appropriately
be posted directly to the list.


David Gil
National University of Singapore
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