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Quantifier scope in sentence prosody?

A view from production

Acta Linguistica Academica
Authors: Balázs Surányi and Gergő Turi

Logical scope interpretation and sentence prosody exhibit intricate, yet scarcely studied interrelations across a variety of languages and constructions. Despite these observable interrelations, it is not clear whether quantifier scope by itself is able to directly affect prosodic form. Information structure is a key potential confounding factor, as it appears to richly interact both with scope interpretation and with prosodic form.

To address this complication, the current study investigates, based on data from Hungarian, whether quantifier scope is expressed prosodically if information structure is kept in check. A production experiment is presented that investigates grammatically scope ambiguous doubly quantified sentences with varied focus structures, while lacking a syntactically marked topic or focus. In contrast to the information structural manipulation, which is manifest in the analysis of the acoustic data, the results reveal no prosodic effect of quantifier scope, nor the interaction of scope with information structure. This finding casts doubt on the notion that logical scope can receive direct prosodic expression, and it indirectly corroborates the restrictive view instead that scope interpretation is encoded in prosody only in cases in which it is a free rider on information structure.

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