|Title:||The Structure and Real-Time Comprehension of Quantifier Scope Ambiguity||Add Dissertation|
|Author:||Catherine Anderson||Update Dissertation|
|Email:||click here to access email|
|Institution:||Northwestern University, Department of Linguistics|
|Linguistic Subfield(s):||Psycholinguistics; Semantics; Syntax;|
|Abstract:||This dissertation argues that the real-time comprehension of sentences with quantifier scope ambiguities is governed by the properties of the human sentence processing mechanism, which is driven by structural principles. Chapter 1 presents an overview of existing theories of quantifier representation and models of sentence comprehension. The chapter concludes by proposing a principle of Processing Scope Economy. According to the principle, quantifier scope ambiguity is a syntactic phenomenon and computing quantifier scope relations in real time involves computing syntactic representations. Because inverse-scope representations are more complex than surface-scope representations, computing inverse scope incurs a processing cost.
Chapter 2 provides evidence from three questionnaires and five self-paced reading experiments that inverse-scope interpretations are dispreferred by the processor and that assigning inverse scope consumes more processing resources than assigning surface scope does. This processing cost is incurred not only when a doubly quantified sentence is presented in isolation, but also when it is presented in a context that supports the inverse-scope interpretation, and even when the sentence is unambiguously inverse scope. These results indicate that abstract linguistic structure plays a central role in the comprehension of scope-ambiguous sentences and support the principle of Processing Scope Economy.
Chapter 3 examines Fox's (2000) grammatical principle of Scope Economy, which proposes that a syntactic scope-shifting operation like Quantifier Raising is prohibited if it is semantically vacuous. The results of two questionnaires and three self-paced reading experiments suggest, however, that inverse-scope configurations are indeed permitted in sentences that are scopally commutative. Rather than a principle of Grammatical Scope Economy, whereby the well-formedness of a syntactic representation is governed by its semantics, the results offer support for the principle of Processing Scope Economy, which proposes that inverse-scope configurations are fully grammatical but dispreferred.
Taken together, the data presented in Chapters 2 and 3 offer a coherent picture of a model of on-line sentence comprehension that is crucially informed by syntactic structure. The properties of this model then allow us to locate the effects of Scope Economy in the processor rather than in the grammar.