An Experimental Study on the Meaning of Urdu Universal Quantifiers

Volume 11
Issue 2
Saima Hassan
The virtually universal opinion of semanticists is that the collective or distributive construal of English quantified statements results from the collective and distributive properties of different quantifiers with necessarily collective or distributive predicate types. The evidence adduced to support such analyses is based almost exclusively on previous research on English quantifiers (Vendler, 1967; Hogg, 1977; Dowty, 1987; Szabolcsi, 1997; Beghelli and Stowell, 1997; Kearns, 2000; Tunstall, 1998 among many others). It is generally assumed that adults are essentially error-free in their comprehension of sentences containing universal quantifiers, although they are not as sensitive to semantic anomalies as they are to syntactic violations or do not consider them as serious (Ni et al., 1998; Pearlmutter et al., 1999; Braze et al., 2002; Angrilli et al., 2002; Hagoort, 2003; Sorace and Keller, 2005). The aim of this paper is to subject these beliefs to cross-linguistic scrutiny. I begin by reviewing the evidence that the English universal quantifier all has a bias towards a collective interpretation, while each/every is biased towards a distributive interpretation. Pursuing this idea for the analysis of Urdu, I present a simple questionnaire study carried out on native speakers of Urdu. The questionnaire was designed to explore whether native speakers of Urdu are sensitive to the collective/distributive properties of Urdu universal quantifiers, and whether they are differentially sensitive to semantic/syntactic anomalies in quantified statements. I discuss the implications of this for the cross-linguistic analysis of universal quantifiers.

Keywords: Collective and Distributive Quantifiers, Semantic and Syntactic Anomalies/Violations