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Acquisition of Quantifier Scope Interpretation by Chinese-Speaking Learners of English
Chia-Ying Chu, Alison Gabriele, and Utako Minai
157-168 (complete paper or proceedings contents)

Abstract

The present study examines the interpretation of doubly-quantified sentences such as "someone dropped every plate" and "every plate was dropped by someone" by Chinese learners of English. For both sentences, English allows two interpretations (indefinite-wide scope and universal-wide scope) linked to the scopal relations between the two quantifiers. In contrast, the equivalent sentences in Chinese allow only the indefinite-wide scope interpretation for active sentences but allow both indefinite-wide and universal-wide scope interpretations for passive sentences (Aoun & Li, 1999). Thus, Chinese learners of English need positive evidence to learn the universal-wide scope interpretation for active sentences in English, as this interpretation cannot be transferred from the L1. However, it has been suggested that positive evidence may not be always sufficient (Inagaki, 2002). The present study investigated whether intermediate (n=16) and advanced (n=12) Chinese learners of English can interpret doubly quantified sentences similarly to English native speakers or whether they are constrained by the properties of the L1. Fourteen English natives served as a control group. The results of our interpretation tasks, given in both Chinese and English, support Inagaki's proposal, showing transfer effects from L1, with the L2 learners exhibiting difficulty in converging on the target property.

Published in

Selected Proceedings of the 5th Conference on Generative Approaches to Language Acquisition North America (GALANA 2012)
edited by Chia-Ying Chu, Caitlin E. Coughlin, Beatriz Lopez Prego, Utako Minai, and Annie Tremblay
Table of contents
Printed edition: $320.00