You are here:

Luke Tuttle, undergrad student, will present at NCUR

 The Linguistics department is excited that Luke Tuttle has been accepted to present at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR)!

His title of his presentation is: Effects of Marked Intonation on a Restricted Scope Configuration

Simple(r) description: 

In English we rely nearly exclusively on context to disambiguate scope ambiguities such as is present in sentences like (1).

1. Two students have two cars.

Though, some languages (i.e. German & Hungarian) typically don't have to deal with ambiguity like this because they have a flexible word order which can be used to determine scope relations. Whatever element comes first takes wide scope (aka surface scope). However, in some cases, speakers of these languages can use a specific type of prosody to elicit a reverse scope reading despite the word order normally dictating otherwise. My research involves testing whether this phenomenon exists for native American-English speakers with respect to a semantic-syntactic quantifier scope restriction known as the Epistemic Containment Principle as first proposed by von Fintel & Iatridou 2003. To test this I am collecting acceptability judgements of ECP sentences spoken using various types of prosody through an online survey.


It is well known that in some instances only one scope relation is possible for a sentence, irrespective of the context and even if more than one scope taking element is present. One study describes the Epistemic Containment Principle as a scope restriction which involves epistemic modals verbs (EMs) and a quantifier subject (QS). Consider the following scenario: A group of people was exposed to an infectious agent. Anonymous test results concluded half of the people are healthy, but it is unknown who is healthy and who is sick. Someone then says: (1) Everyone may be infected. Interpretations: (a) It may be the case that each and every person is infected. (incongruent with context, accessible) (b) For every person x, x may have be infected. (congruent with context, inaccessible) (1) sounds odd, why is reading (a) accessible and not (b)? This leads to the central claim that quantifiers are restricted from taking scope over epistemic modals—in (1), Everyone and may respectively. To appear congruent with its context, the QS must take wide scope (as in (b)), but due to the ECP it cannot and thus sounds unacceptable. This study’s hypothesis is that marked intonation on the QS or the ES provides access to this restricted scope configuration. If true, it would warrant revisiting the understanding of LF and PF interaction. Two prosodic patterns, nuclear stress and the rise-fall contour arranged into 4 conditions, were used to investigate the hypothesis with neutral intonation used as a control condition. An online survey using every and may as the QS-EM pair asks 100 respondents to rate the acceptability of sentences similar to (1) on a Likert scale. An ANOVA will be used to determine the existence of an effect after data collection is complete.

Congratulations Luke!

Last Updated: 1/30/18