Acquisition of quantifier raising of a universal across an existential: Evidence from German


Our paper reports an act out task with German 5- and 6-year olds and adults involving doubly-quantified sentences with a universal object and an existential subject. We found that 5- and 6-year olds allow inverse scope in such sentences, while adults do not. Our findings contribute to a growing body of research (e.g. Gualmini et al. 2008; Musolino 2009, etc.) showing that children are more flexible in their scopal considerations than initially proposed by the Isomorphism proposal (Lidz & Musolino 2002; Musolino & Lidz 2006). This result provides support for a theory of German, a “no quantifier raising”-language, in terms of soft violable constraints, or global economy terms (Bobaljik & Wurmbrand 2012), rather than in terms of hard inviolable constraints or rules (Frey 1993). Finally, the results are compatible with Reinhart’s (2004) hypothesis that children do not perform global interface economy considerations due to the increased processing associated with it.

This article is part of the special collection: Acquisition of Quantification

[Publisher's Note: Soon after publication the authors became aware of a relevant publication and requested the following:
Note that Goro (2007) found similar results for Japanese children and proposes a language-specific account. Goro, Takuya 2007. Language-specific constraints on scope interpretation in first language acquisition. College Park: University of Maryland dissertation.]


quantifier raising, language development, inverse scope reading, German language, interface economy

How to Cite

Szendrői, K., Schumacher, R., Fritzsche, T. & Höhle, B., (2017) “Acquisition of quantifier raising of a universal across an existential: Evidence from German”, Glossa: a journal of general linguistics 2(1): 46. doi:


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Kriszta Szendrői (UCL, 2 Wakefield Street, London, WC1N 1PF)
Rebecca Schumacher (U Potsdam, Karl-Liebknecht-Str. 24–25, 14476 Potsdam)
Tom Fritzsche (U Potsdam, Karl-Liebknecht-Str. 24–25, 14476 Potsdam)
Barbara Höhle (U Potsdam, Karl-Liebknecht-Str. 24–25, 14476 Potsdam)



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