Navigating negative quantificational space

Julien Musolino, Stephen Crain, Rosalind Thornton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


This paper reports the findings from an interconnected set of experiments designed to assess children's knowledge of the semantic interactions between negation and quantified NPs. Our main finding is that young children, unlike adults, systematically interpret these elements on the basis of their position in overt syntax. We argue that this observation can be derived from an interplay between fundamental properties of universal grammar and basic learning principles. We show that even when children's semantic knowledge appears to differ from that of adults, the observed differences occur within well-defined boundaries, that is, within the limits imposed by the theory of universal grammar. Moreover, we point to the (positive) evidence needed by children in their passage to adulthood. We conclude that children have incomplete rather than inaccurate knowledge, in accordance with the continuity hypothesis. Together, these observations support the conclusion that children draw from an arsenal of innately specified principles in the acquisition of the grammar of quantification.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-32
Number of pages32
Issue number365
StatePublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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