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Bookmark and Share Paper 3310

Testing the QUD Approach: Children's Comprehension of Scopally Ambiguous Questions
Federica Di Bacco, Lyn Tieu, Vincenzo Moscati, Raffaella Folli, Christina Sevdali, and Jacopo Romoli
177-186 (complete paper or proceedings contents)


This paper investigates whether children are able to access the interpretation of ambiguous doubly quantified questions, e.g., Did a doctor take each pencil. Previous studies (Musolino 1998 a.o.) have shown that children are often unable to access inverse for ambiguous declarative sentences. Further research has shown that the inverse scope interpretation is accessible for children, if the context has made relevant an implicit Question Under Discussion (QUD) which is answered by the inverse scope interpretation of the ambiguous sentence (Gualmini et al 2008). For this study, ambiguous questions were chosen instead of declarative sentences as a way to control for the effect of the QUD, since the interpretation of a question should not be influenced by a QUD. The results show that 4-6-year-old children do not differ from adults in their interpretation of scopally ambiguous questions, as both groups are able to access inverse scope. The results are compatible with two alternative hypotheses concerning the QUD approach and the interpretation of questions. The first possibility is that the QUD is simply not a factor that affects the interpretation of questions. This would explain why no difference between children and adults was found. The second possibility is that the QUD approach should be formulated in such a way that it can be extended to explain performance on questions, in particular invoking a notion of super-question and sub-question (Roberts 1996).

Published in

Proceedings of the 34th West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics
edited by Aaron Kaplan, Abby Kaplan, Miranda K. McCarvel, and Edward J. Rubin
Table of contents
Printed edition: $410.00