The goal of this study is to introduce a new type of evidence into the debate on the nature of quantifier spreading by looking at the presuppositionality of "every". The author suggests that the existence presupposition triggered by "every" may serve as a probe into children's semantics of sentences like "Every boy read a book" because it applies only to the restrictor of the quantifier, and, therefore, can be used to determine which elements the child includes in the restrictor by establishing to which parts of the sentence the child applies the presupposition. Q-spreading (Philip 1995) and Full Competence (Crain et al. 1996, Rakhlin 2007) theories make distinct predictions with respect to the contexts in which the child should be able to assign a truth-value to a universally quantified sentence and those in which a presupposition failure should be triggered. Given that children treat "every" as presuppositional, if they assign sentences like "Every boy read a book" adult-like semantic structure, the presupposition will apply only to the agent-NP, and children should treat the sentence as odd only in those contexts in which the set of boys is empty. If children spread the domain of quantification to other NPs, then the presupposition should also spread to these NPs and hence be satisfied in those contexts in which the set of boys is empty, but the set of books isn't (since both sets are included in the restrictor). These predictions were tested with English-speaking preschool children. The results were consistent with the theory attributing children an adult-like grammar of quantification.
Proceedings of the 3rd Conference on Generative Approaches to Language Acquisition North America (GALANA 2008)
edited by Jean Crawford, Koichi Otaki, and Masahiko Takahashi
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