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Title: Wouldn't you agree with a bunch of lemons? A self-paced reading test on agreement in quantification expressions
Authors: Serafini, Alessia
Franzon, Francesca
Arcara, Giorgio
Bertocci, Davide
Zanini, Chiara
Keywords: Number agreement
Syntactic-semantic interface
Syntactic ambiguity
Issue Date: 2016
Publisher: Venice : Center for Language Sciences
Abstract: This paper investigates the potential involvement of semantics in the processing of agreement. Forty Italian speakers participated to a self-paced reading test. We examined the reaction times and acceptability ratings with respect to Italian quantification expressions such as ‘a bag of / a bunch of’+ concrete/abstract noun. These expressions show two possibilities concerning Number agreement: the verb can agree either with the quantifier (syntactic agreement) or with the noun that it modifies (semantic agreement). When containing a concrete noun (e.g. bunch of lemons), these expressions are ambiguous between a reading in which the NP ‘bag’ is modified by a second NP denoting its content (i.e. a bag full of lemons) and a reading in which ‘bag’ quantifies over the NP head (i.e. lemons). The ambiguity disappears when the NP contains an abstract noun (e.g. a bunch of concepts). Results showed a preference for agreement with the concrete noun. We will discuss these findings arguing that there is no competition between semantic and syntactic information in the processing of agreement. Instead, the phenomenon can be explained in terms of syntactic ambiguity. We therefore conclude that agreement only takes place at the syntactic level.
Appears in Collections:Rivista di Grammatica Generativa : Research in Generative Grammar (RGG)

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