An Experimental Study on the Scope of (Un)modified Indefinites

in International Review of Pragmatics
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Abstract

This paper reports on three experiments which investigate the availability of long-distance scope for different types of indefinite expressions, in order to test the predictions of different semantic theories of indefinite scope. The main findings of the experiments are: (i) local, narrow-scope readings are preferred for a indefinites, whereas long-distance scope is preferred for a certain indefinites; and (ii) long-distance scope is more readily available to bare one indefinites than to modified at least/exactly one indefinites, but modified numeral indefinites nevertheless allow long-distance scope more readily than universal quantifiers. While the first finding is consistent with theories that link scope and epistemic specificity (since a certain indefinites are often analyzed as markers of specificity), the second finding suggests that long-distance scope is also available to non-specific, quantificational indefinites. It is shown that the findings are problematic for choice-function theories of indefinite scope, and are more consistent with long-distance scopeshifting, or with accounts that link scope and topicality.

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