Underspecified Representations of Scope Ambiguity?
We tested whether quantifier scope is left underspecified until disambiguating information is encountered. We measured reading times while comprehenders read German scope ambiguous doubly quantified sentences with a configuration of quantifiers involving scope conflict. After reading the sentence a disambiguating picture was presented. Half of the pictures were only compatible with surface scope while the other half disambiguated towards inverse scope. To avoid scope reanalysis perceivers should thus delay scope interpretation and maintain an underspecified representation. Contrary to this prediction, indications of scope conflict could be observed already during reading the second quantifier, ie. well before the disambiguation. To find out whether scope computation starts even before the processor has encountered a complete predication, the experiment also included a (inverse linking) construction in which the two quantifiers appeared before the verb. In this configuration we didn’t find any indication of scope conflict at the second quantifier. Taken together, our study provides evidence for immediate scope assignment, but only if the processor is dealing with a complete minimal sentence including not only the quantifiers but also the verbal predicate.
KeywordsReading Time Sentence Condition Sentence Construction Inverse Scope Scope Relation
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