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Faculty of Arts University of Groningen The acquisition of the weak-strong distinction and the Dutch quantifier allemaal Erik-Jan Smits

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Presentation on theme: "Faculty of Arts University of Groningen The acquisition of the weak-strong distinction and the Dutch quantifier allemaal Erik-Jan Smits"— Presentation transcript:

1 Faculty of Arts University of Groningen The acquisition of the weak-strong distinction and the Dutch quantifier allemaal Erik-Jan Smits Bart Hollebrandse SiN-day; November 25, 2004

2 SiN-day, November The acquisition of quantification; the classical picture and the yes-answer Question: Is every farmer feeding a donkey? Possible answers: (1) No; pointing at the donkey (2) Yes; all the farmers are feeding a donkey (adult answer) (3) Yes; many donkeys are fed by a farmer Crain et al. (1996)

3 SiN-day, November The weak-strong distinction and the acquisition of quantification Weak-strong distinction (Milsark, 1979): There are {many, few, *all, *every} doctors in the room Geurts (2003): no experimental data, but: “the grammatical connection between a quantifier and its domain of quantification is less rigid in children than it is in adults” (footnote 3, p. 10). (cf. Philip (1995), Drozd and many others)

4 SiN-day, November Analyzing quantified sentences In order to interpret a quantified sentences, one should: 1.Correctly localize the domain of the relevant quantifier (or: determine its scope) 2.Correctly interpret the domain of the relevant quantifier (or: determine the nature of the quantifier)

5 SiN-day, November The Dutch quantifier “allemaal” (1) With respect to the correct localization of the domain, “allemaal” is able to quantify over subject or object: 1.Een jongen draagt de koffers allemaal A boy is carrying the suitcases all “A boy is carrying all the suitcases” 2.De jongens dragen allemaal een koffer The boys are carrying all a suitcase “The boys are all carrying a suitcase”

6 SiN-day, November The Dutch quantifier “allemaal” (2) With respect to the correct interpretation of the domain, “allemaal” is unique because its ambiguity between a strong and a weak quantifier: 1.Een jongen draagt de koffers allemaal A boy is carrying the suitcases all “A boy is holding all the suitcases” allemaal strong (A,B) is true iff ||A||  ||B|| 2.Er fietsen allemaal papegaaien There are bicycling all parrots “There are bicycling allemaal (many) parrots” allemaal weak (A, B) is true iff ||A||  ||B||  | 2 |

7 SiN-day, November Experimental design Hypothesis: Difficulties with understanding quantified sentences can not only be found in children unable to correctly localize the domain of the quantifier, but also in children unable to correctly interpret the domain of the quantifier (i.e. a consequent strong or weak reading) Aim: Distinguish children with an adult-like quantifier system from children with a weak quantifier system. Two experiments: –Scope-experiment: Is a child able to make a distinction between “allemaal” quantifying over the subject or object? –Weak-strong experiment: Is a child able to make a distinction between a weak and strong use of “allemaal”?

8 SiN-day, November General prediction A child that is always interpreting a quantifier as a weak one in the weak-strong experiment, regardless its syntactic position, will judge a significantly higher amount of sentences as true in the scope-experiment (regardless the fact whether the subject or object is within the domain of the quantifier) than the child always understanding a quantifier as a strong one

9 SiN-day, November The scope-experiment Predictions: –A child is always quantifying the subject –A child is always quantifying the object –A child is a spreader: quantifying over both the object and the subject Method: Truth Value Judgment Task – also questioning the yes-answer. 39 kids (aged 4 – 6) 3 items per 2 conditions; 3 no-fillers (total 15 sentences)

10 SiN-day, November The scope-experiment – test items (1) Een paard draagt de meisjes allemaal A horse is carrying the girls all object Q De mannen dragen allemaal een ezel The men are carrying all a donkey subject Q

11 SiN-day, November The scope-experiment – test items (2) Een robot houdt de ballonnen allemaal vast A robot is holding the balloons all PART object Q De mannen tillen allemaal een kist op The men are lifting all a box up subject Q

12 SiN-day, November Results scope-experiment Two groups: 1.Adult answer (no) (26) 2.Non-adult answer (yes) (13)

13 SiN-day, November Results scope experiment – domains of quantification

14 SiN-day, November Results scope experiment – domains of quantification

15 SiN-day, November The weak-strong experiment Prediction: Children differ in their interpretation of a quantifier as: –A weak one –A strong one –A weak or strong one depending on its syntactic position – the adult analysis 39 subjects (aged 4 – 6) Method: Truth Value Judgment Task – also questioning the yes-answer Total of test sentences: 18 (12 test items, 3 no-fillers, 3 yes- fillers)

16 SiN-day, November The weak-strong experiment – test items De ezels huilen allemaal The donkeys crying all (Strong;3 items 3 items with “alle”, all) Er dansen allemaal meisjes There are dancing many girls (Weak – 6 items)

17 SiN-day, November Results weak-strong experiment Prediction I: children with only a strong reading of allemaal Prediction II: children with only a weak reading of allemaal

18 SiN-day, November Results weak-strong experiment (2) Prediction III: children with an adult reading (expected: yes-answer in the weak-condtion, no-answer in the strong-condittion)

19 SiN-day, November Scope and the weak-strong distinction General prediction: A child that is always interpreting a quantifier as a weak one in the weak-strong experiment, regardless its syntactic position, will judge a significantly higher amount of sentences as true in the scope-experiment than the child always understanding a quantifier as a strong one

20 SiN-day, November General results; scope and the weak-strong-distinction Exp. IExp. II Strong2635 Weak13 4

21 SiN-day, November Conclusions Experiment 1: The data shows that there are children that have a weak reading for a universal strong quantifier (13 out of 39). Experiment 2: Children have a preference to analyze allemaal as a strong quantifier, in a situation in which not all the subjects are participating (35 out of 39). In general: Children that have a weak quantifier system can only be discriminated from children that have an adult quantifier system by experiments taking the weak-strong distinction into account. Problems with quantification are more widespread than previously thought.


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