Scope assignment in child language: Evidence from the acquisition of Chinese

Peng Zhou*, Stephen Crain

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)
20 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

In this paper, we investigated how Mandarin-speaking children and adults understand the scope relation between the universal quantifier and negation in sentences like Mei-pi ma dou meiyou tiaoguo liba 'Every horse didn't jump over the fence' and Bushi mei-pi ma dou tiaoguo-le liba 'Not every horse jumped over fence'. We found that Mandarin-speaking children accepted these two types of sentences in both the surface scope and the inverse scope scenarios, whereas Mandarin-speaking adults only permitted them in the surface scope scenarios. The findings of this study, combined with previous research with English-speaking children, invite the conclusion that children start off with a flexible scope relation between the universal quantifier and negation. Children's grammar allows flexibility in the mappings between syntax and semantics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)973-988
Number of pages16
JournalLingua
Volume119
Issue number7
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2009

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