When All Linguists Did not Go to the Workshop, None of the Germans but Some of the French Did: The Role of Alternative Constructions for Quantifier Scope
In this paper, we will present crosslinguistic data on the interpretation of negation over quantifier scope in sentences like “All children did not go to the zoo.” Questionnaire data show that English as well as German speakers prefer a linear scope interpretation of the quantifier and the negation, where it is true for all children that they did not go to the zoo. French speakers, however, strongly prefer the inverse scope interpretation where some but not all children did not go to the zoo. The preference for linear scope is moreover stronger for German speakers than for English speakers. It diminishes with age for French and English, but not for German speakers. We will argue that language differences result from two constraints: the availability of a “close” alternative in the language and the topicality of a preverbal subject. An unambiguous alternative corresponding to inverse scope in the “all-not” construction can easily be achieved in English and German by fronting the negation as in “Not all children went to the zoo.” The corresponding construction is not available in standard French. A second questionnaire study shows that adding “Not…all” sentences in the experiment, thus increasing their availability, increases the linear scope preference in English. The particularly strong preference for linear scope in German will be argued to be linked to the stronger topicality of preverbal subjects in German main clauses.
We would like to thank Pascal Amsili, Katy Carlson, and Thomas Weskott for very helpful comments on an earlier version of this chapter. Céline Pozniak and Heather Burnett were of great help with respect to checking our materials in English and French. This work was supported by the French Research Agency (ANR-10-LABX-0083).
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