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

  • Barbara HemforthEmail author
  • Lars Konieczny
Part of the Studies in Theoretical Psycholinguistics book series (SITP, volume 48)


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).


  1. Amsili, P. (2009). Chaque âge n’a pas son Homère: Petite étude de corpus sur l’interaction entre négation et quantification universelle. Unpublished Manuscript, Université Paris Diderot.Google Scholar
  2. Bader, M., & Frazier, L. (2005). Interpretation of leftward-moved constituents: Processing topicalizations in German. Linguistics, 431(1), 49–87.Google Scholar
  3. Bates, D., Maechler, M., Bolker, B., & Walker, S. (2015). Fitting linear mixed-effects models using lme4. Journal of Statistical Software, 67(1), 1–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Baumann, P., Konieczny, L., & Hemforth, B. (2014). Conversational implicatures in anaphora resolution: Alternative constructions and referring expressions. In Psycholinguistic approaches to meaning and understanding across languages (pp. 197–212). Studies in Theoretical Psycholinguistics. Dordrecht: Springer.Google Scholar
  5. Büring, Daniel. (1997). The meaning of topic and focus—The 59th street bridge accent. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  6. Clark, D. G., & Kar, J. (2011). Bias of quantifier scope interpretation is attenuated in normal aging and semantic dementia. Journal of Neurolinguistics, 24, 411–419.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Carminati, M. N. (2002). The processing of Italian subject pronouns (Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation).
  8. Drummond, A. (2014). Ibex farm. (
  9. Dwivedi, V. D. (2013). Interpreting quantifier scope ambiguity: Evidence of heuristic first algorithmic second processing. PLoS ONE, 8(11), e81461. Scholar
  10. Fernandes, E., Luegi, P., Correa Soares, E., de la Fuente, I. & Hemforth, B. (2018). Adaptation in pronoun resolution: Evidence from Brazilian and European portuguese. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition. Scholar
  11. Filippova, K., & Strube, M. (2007). The German vorfeld and local coherence. Journal of Logic Language and Information, 16, 465–485. Scholar
  12. Fodor, J. D. (1982). The mental representation of quantifiers. In S. Peters & E. Saarinen (Eds.), Processes, beliefs, and questions. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: D. Reidel.Google Scholar
  13. Fox, J. (2003). Effect displays in R for generalised linear models. Journal of Statistical Software, 8(15), 1–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Fox, J., & Weisberg, S. (2011). An R companion to applied regression (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  15. Frazier, L. (1999). On sentence interpretation. Studies in theoretical psycholinguistics. Springer: Dordrecht.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Frazier, L., & Clifton, C. (1995). Construal. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  17. Gennari, S. P., & MacDonald, M. C. (2006). Acquisition of negation and quantification: Insights from adult production and comprehension. Language Acquisition, 13, 125–168.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Gilboy, E., Sapena, J., Clifton, C., & Frazier, L. (1995). Argument structure and association preferences in Spanish and English compound NPs. Cognition, 54, 131–167.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Grice, H. (1975). Logic and conversation. In P. Cole and J. Morgan (Eds.), Syntax and semantics: Vol. 3 Speech acts. New York: Academic Press, pp. 41–58.Google Scholar
  20. Hemforth, B., Konieczny, L., Scheepers, C., Colonna, S., Schimke, S., Baumann, P., et al. (2010). Language specific preferences in anaphor resolution: Exposure or gricean maxims? In Proceedings of the 32nd annual conference of the cognitive science society. Portland, USA, August 11–14.Google Scholar
  21. Hemforth, B., Fernandez, S., Clifton, C., Frazier, L., Konieczny, L., & Walter, M. (2015). Relative clause attachment in German, English, Spanish and French: Effects of position and length. Lingua. Scholar
  22. Ioup, G. (1975). The treatment of quantifier scope in a transformational grammar. Doctoral Dissertation, The City University of New York, NY.Google Scholar
  23. Jacobs, J. (2001). The dimensions of topic-comment. Linguistics, 1, 111–136.Google Scholar
  24. Johnson-Laird, P. N. (1969). On understanding logically complex sentences. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 21, 1–13.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Katsos, N., Cummins C., Ezeizabarrena M-J., Gavarro A., Kraljević J. K., Hrzica, G., et al. (2016). Cross-linguistic patterns in the acquisition of quantifiers. PNAS 13(33), 201601341, Scholar
  26. Kemtes, K. A., & Kemper, S. (1999). Aging and resolution of quantifier scope effects. The Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 54, P350–P360.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Kurtzman, H., & MacDonald, M. (1993). Resolution of quantifier scope ambiguities. Cognition, 48(1993), 243–279.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Kuznetsova, A., Brockhoff, P. B., & Christensen, R. H. B. (2017). lmerTest package: Tests in linear mixed effects models. Journal of Statistical Software, 82(13), 1–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Marandin, J.-M., Beyssade, C., Delais-Roussarie, E., & Rialland, A. (2002). Discourse marking in French: C accents and discourse moves. In Proceedings of speech prosody.Google Scholar
  30. Molnár, V. (1991). Das TOPIK im deutschen und im ungarischen. Stockholm, Sweden: Almqvist and Wiksell.Google Scholar
  31. Neukom-Hermann, A. (2016). Negation, quantification and scope. A corpus study of English and German all … not constructions. University of Zurich, Faculty of Arts.Google Scholar
  32. Noveck, I., Le Guelminger, R., Georgieff, N., & Labruyere, N. (2007). What autism can reveal about every … not sentences. Journal of Semantics, 24, 73–90. Scholar
  33. Paterson, K. B., Filik, R., & Liversedge, S. (2008). Competition during the processing of quantifier scope ambiguities: Evidence from eye movements during reading. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 61(3), 459–473.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Reinhardt, T. (1982). Pragmatics and linguistics: An analysis of sentence topics. Philisophica, 27, 53–94.Google Scholar
  35. Tunstall, S. L. (1998). The interpretation of quantifiers: Semantics and processing. Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation, Department of Linguistics, University of Massachusetts, Amherst.Google Scholar
  36. Urbach, T. P., DeLong, K. A., & Kutas, M. (2015). Quantifiers are incrementally interpreted in context, more than less. Journal of Memory and Language, 83, 79–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Vallduví, E., & Engdahl, E. (1996). The linguistic realization of information packaging. Linguistics, 34, 459–519.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratoire de Linguistique FormelleParis Diderot University, CNRSParisFrance
  2. 2.Center for Cognitive Science, University of FreiburgFreiburg im BreisgauGermany

Personalised recommendations