Exploring the existential/universal ambiguity in singular donkey sentences

  • Chao Sun
  • Daniel Rothschild
  • Richard Breheny


Although widely discussed in the semantics literature, donkey sentences have been the subject of very little experimental study. In this paper, we present experimental work that is aimed at addressing somewhat open questions around donkey sentences with determiners other than ‘every’ and their susceptibility to both Universal and Existential readings. Our experiments test donkey sentences with ‘every’, ‘no’, ‘some’ and ‘more than two’. By using both verification and act-out tasks, we are able to show that Universal readings are available for donkey sentences with existential determiners (specifically, ‘more than two’), as well as Existential readings. However, our studies fail to show that sentences with ‘no’ have a Universal reading, and they also provide some evidence against the idea that ‘no’ sentences have dual readings.
How to Cite
Sun, C., Rothschild, D., & Breheny, R. (2020). Exploring the existential/universal ambiguity in singular donkey sentences. Proceedings of Sinn Und Bedeutung, 24(2), 289-305. https://doi.org/10.18148/sub/2020.v24i2.898