On the quantificational status of indefinites: The view from child language

Jeffrey Lidz, Julien Musolino

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Theories of indefinites vary with respect to whether these noun phrases can be treated as quantificational. Although everyone seems to be in agreement that indefinites do not always introduce their own quantificational force, there is widespread disagreement as to whether they ever do. In this article, we present experimental evidence from children learning English and Kannada demonstrating that children's indefinites show scopal restrictions parallel to the restrictions they show with other unambiguously quantificational expressions. Children, unlike adults, show a strong preference to assign quantificational expressions surface scope. This is true for both strong and weak quantifiers, which would be surprising on a theory of indefinites that treated these expressions as uniformly nonquantificational. Consequently, we argue that in adult grammars indefinites must have a quantificational representation at least some of the time.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)73-102
Number of pages30
JournalLanguage Acquisition
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2005
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Education
  • Linguistics and Language


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