Emmanuel Chemla and Lewis Bott. (2014). “Structural priming to study scopal representations and operations”. To appear in Linguistic Inquiry.

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Abstract: Sentences can be ambiguous with respect to which expressions "take scope" over others. For example, Every student read a book can be understood as meaning that all students read a (possibly different) book or that there is a single book read by all students. Previous work by Raffray and Pickering (2010) has shown that if people are exposed to one of the two interpretations, they can be primed to interpret subsequent scopally ambiguous sentences with that same interpretation. This could be seen as evidence for a Logical Form representation capturing scopal properties or as evidence for a scope reversal operation, whose application could be facilitated by a previous application (c.f. Quantifier Raising). We discuss the usefulness of such simple priming studies in linguistics. Based on the scope ambiguity example, we show that priming of representation and priming of operation can be distinguished. In an experiment testing the relevant predictions for our test case, we obtain that (1) priming is based not on operations but on representations, but (2) the relevant level of representation encodes only scopal relations between specific quantified expressions.

Keywords: scope; ambiguity; priming; experiment