Linguistics colloquium: Einat Shetreet

08/05/2018 - 14:00 - 15:30

Einat Shetreet, Tel Aviv University

The collective/distributive distinction of the universal quantifier in Hebrew

Abstract: Universal quantifiers (e.g., all or each) refer to sets of events, and can further express a distinction between collective and distributive events. Whereas each is obligatorily distributive, all is ambiguous between collective and distributive readings. Therefore, to describe a collective event of John taking one picture of five elephants, we would use the quantifier all (i.e., John photographed all the elephants), but to describe a distributive event of John taking five separate pictures, one elephant at a time, we could use either all or each (i.e., John photographed all the elephants or John photographed each elephant). Unlike English, Hebrew has a single universal quantifier (KOL) and it expresses the collective / distributive distinction using different morphosyntactic structures, so that KOL coupled with a definite noun in the plural form is equivalent to all, and KOL coupled with an indefinite noun in the singular form is equivalent to each (based on linguistic observation, e.g., Francez, & Goldring, 2012; Gil, 1995; and psycholinguistic work by the authors). Thus, the structure KOL + [+DEF]+[Noun.PL] is ambiguous between collective and distributive readings and the structure KOL + [-DEF]+[Noun.SG] is obligatory distributive. I will describe a series of experiments testing the way Hebrew-speaking adults interpret sentences with the universal quantifier in the ambiguous and distributive structures, showing that multiple factors affect the interpretation.

Building 504, room 7

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