Interpreting tractable versus intractable reciprocal sentences

In Proceedings of the International Conference on Computational Semantics (forthcoming)
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Abstract

In three experiments, we investigated the computational complexity of German reciprocal sentences with different quantificational antecedents. Building upon the tractable cognition thesis (van Rooij, 2008) and its application to the verification of quantifiers (Szymanik, 2010) we predicted complexity differences among these sentences. Reciprocals with all-antecedents are expected to preferably receive a strong interpretation (Dalrymple et al., 1998), but reciprocals with proportional or numerical quantifier antecedents should be interpreted weakly. Experiment 1, where participants completed pictures according to their preferred interpretation, provides evidence for these predictions. Experiment 2 was a picture verification task. The results show that the strong interpretation was in fact possible for tractable all but one-reciprocals, but not for exactly n. The last experiment manipulated monotonicity of the quantifier antecedents.

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