Strong and weak readings in the domain of worlds: a negative polar modal and children’s scope assignment

Loes Koring*, Luisa Meroni, Vincenzo Moscati

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    2 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    This study investigates children’s interpretation of sentences with two logical operators: Dutch universal modal hoeven and negation (niet). In adult Dutch, hoeven is an NPI that necessarily scopes under negation, giving rise to a NOT > NECESSARY reading. The findings from a hidden-object task with 5- and 6-year-old children showed that children’s performance is suggestive of an interpretation of sentences with hoeft niet in which the modal scopes over negation (NECESSARY > NOT). This is in line with the Semantic Subset Principle that dictates that children should opt for the strongest possible reading in case of potential scope ambiguities. The full pattern of results, however, seems to be determined, in addition, by a particular strategy children use when facing uncertainty called Premature Closure.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1193-1217
    Number of pages25
    JournalJournal of Psycholinguistic Research
    Volume47
    Issue number6
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2018

    Keywords

    • Semantic Subset Principle
    • scope assignment
    • modality
    • negation
    • acquisition

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