Simplified grammar in both languages? On scope assignment in Q-Neg sentences in English-dominant heritage Chinese speakers

Jennifer Shen, Yunchuan Chen


Quantifier-negation (Q-Neg) sentences are sentences like ‘All teachers did not use Donald’s car,’ where a negation word and universal quantifier occur in the subject position. There are both surface scope (all>not) and inverse scope (not>all) readings in English, but only the surface scope (all>not) reading is allowed in Chinese. This study conducted a picture-matching truth value judgment experiment to examine whether English-dominant heritage Chinese speakers know the difference between English and Chinese regarding the interpretation of Q-Neg sentences. The data reveals three different groups of participants: a. participants who accepted the inverse scope reading in both languages; b. participants who rejected the inverse scope reading in both languages; c. participants who accepted the inverse scope reading in English but rejected it in Chinese. Implications regarding heritage language research will be discussed.


heritage language; inverse scope; Q-Neg sentences; English/Chinese

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