This paper presents parallel sets of data on comparison constructions from 14 languages. On the basis of the crosslinguistic differences we observe, we propose three parameters of language variation. The first parameter concerns the question of whether or not a language's grammar has incorporated scales into the meanings of gradable predicates. The second parameter differentiates between languages that allow quantification over degrees in the syntax and those that do not. Finally, we propose a syntactic parameter that concerns options for syntactically filling the degree argument position of a gradable predicate.
This paper presents experimental results that elucidate some aspects of semantic processing, i.e. of the system that allows perceivers to associate an interpretation to a sentence on-line. The phenomenon under investigation is the resolution of quantifier scope ambiguities. Sentences containing multiple quantifiers (i.e. everybody, some musician, etc.) are known to give rise to several interpretations. The question addressed in this work is how this kind of ambiguity is resolved in the on-line process of constructing an interpretation for a sentence. The research reported here concentrates exclusively on English and French interrogative sentences, and in particular on the case of ambiguous how many questions that contain a universally quantified subject, every N. The central results of this paper are the following. First, quantifier scope preferences are shown to be problematic for the most straightforward extension of an economy-based model to the processing of meaning, as evidenced by questionnaire studies in English and in French. Second, a model is elaborated in which the attested scope preferences are determined by the interaction with context. The results from a self-paced reading study in English indicate that context plays a crucial role in the processing of scope ambiguity. Third, while incremental context interactive models have been claimed to induce immediate resolution of structural ambiguity (Crain & Steedman 1985; Altmann & Steedman 1988; and others), it is argued here that the interaction with context can also delay such ambiguity resolution, as evidenced by the results of the English self-paced reading study. Finally, comparison of the two languages, English and French, sheds further light onto the phenomenon under investigation.
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