The Representation of Compunds and Phrases in the Mental Lexicon: Evidence from Chinese


Yi-ching Su

University of Maryland


This study investigates the acquisition of quantifier scope in English and Chinese. Using the Truth-Value Judgement task, we examined how children interpreted the double object sentences like "The teacher gave a girl every ball" and the to-dative sentences like "The teacher gave every ball to a girl". In both English and Chinese, the double object sentences allow only the existential wide scope reading, while the to-dative sentences can have both the universal wide scope and the existential wide scope readings. The results showed that English-speaking children assigned the non-adult universal wide scope reading to the double object sentences (50%), but Chinese-speaking children gave the adult interpretation (over 90%). It is argued that the non-adult interpretation given by English-speaking children resulted from an analysis of the double object sentences as the to-dative sentences, and the lexical properties of the indefinite NPs explain why such errors were not found in Chinese-speaking children.

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