Chinese Scope: an experimental investigation


  • Gregory Scontras
  • Cheng-Yu Edwin Tsai
  • Kenneth Mai
  • Maria Polinsky


The current study tests the status of Mandarin Chinese inverse scope by focusing on the interpretations available for sentences where the quantifier ‘one/a’ scopes over ‘every’ at surface structure. By comparing the responses from native speakers of Chinese and native speakers of English, we show that Chinese in fact does not allow inverse scope in doubly-quantified sentences (contra Zhou and Gao, 2009). Further, our results 1) suggest that the Chinese prohibition on inverse scope does not straightforwardly emerge from numeral semantics or bi-clausal structure, 2) demonstrate that in English the numeral one yields a strong specificity inference in subject position (cf. the Single Reference Principle of Kurtzman and MacDonald, 1993), and 3) confirm the permissibility of reconstruction in English relative clauses (cf. Aoun and Li, 2003), therefore providing support for a head-raising analysis of these constructions.


How to Cite

Scontras, G., Tsai, C.-Y. E., Mai, K., & Polinsky, M. (2019). Chinese Scope: an experimental investigation. Proceedings of Sinn Und Bedeutung, 18, 396–414. Retrieved from