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Was für N Interrogatives and Quantifier Scope in English-German Interpretation
Laurent Dekydtspotter, Rex A. Sprouse, and Thaddeus G. Meyer
86-95 (complete paper or proceedings contents)

Abstract

In native German, continuous (1) and discontinuous (2) interrogatives concerning kinds receive different interpretations. Cf. (1) [Was für Bücher] haben die Studenten alle gelesen? and (2) [Was] haben die Studenten alle [für Bücher] gelesen? 'What kinds of books did the students all read?' Continuous interrogatives such as (1) allow collective, distributive and common answers, whereas discontinuous interrogatives such as (2) disallow the common answer. Focusing on collective and common answers, the authors found that beginning learners of German accepted both answer types equally across both constructions, whereas intermediate learners assigned scope following surface syntax on the continuous interrogatives, but did not show knowledge of interpretive restictions on discontinuous interrogatives. Such knowledge became evident only with advanced learners. This acquisition sequence points to the persistence into adulthood of the cognitive structures to which generative grammarians standardly attribute the ability of children to "overcome" poverty-of-the-stimulus problems in native language acquisition and suggests that learners are sensitive to aspects of input regarding the preferred assignment of scope in German.

Published in

Proceedings of the 7th Generative Approaches to Second Language Acquisition Conference (GASLA 2004)
edited by Laurent Dekydtspotter, Rex A. Sprouse, and Audrey Liljestrand
Table of contents
Printed edition: $280.00