Distributing Preferences: Putting the Collective Distributive Preference Hypothesis to the test

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Van Koert et al. (2014) recently proposed the Collective Distributive Preference Hypothesis which attempts to explain the differences between the effects of Quantificational Asymmetry for Dutch and English children. This hypothesis states that these differences in performance originate from a differing preference in interpreting the universal quantifier that is involved: Dutch children prefer a distributive interpretation while English children favour a collective interpretation. This thesis attempts to test the boundaries of this preference for Dutch children and use those data to try and determine a possible origin of this preference. It specifically tests the suggestion made by Van Koert et al. that it originates from the scope rigidity of the Dutch language. The data suggest that, while universal quantifiers are indeed interpreted distributively, both existential quantifiers and conjoined subjects are interpreted collectively. This is especially surprising for the existential quantifiers, which would be expected to be interpreted in the same way as universal quantifiers. This thesis will therefore argue that the syntactic plurality of existential quantifiers and conjoined subjects makes it easier to interpret them collectively. It will be argued that this is semantically the interpretation that is easiest to access and is therefore able to override the preference for a surface scope interpretation that is generally quite prevalent in the Dutch language.
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