Discourse under control in ambiguous sentences

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Sentences with more than one logic operator may be ambiguous between different interpretations and a recent research question is whether children have access to all the possible readings available to adults. Early studies focused on the interpretation of nominal quantifiers and negation, suggesting that children may have only a subset of the possible meanings of a logically ambiguous sentence. In this paper, we extend the inquiry to the interactions between modals and negation. We report on two experiments. In the first, we tested children&#8217;s interpretation of the Italian modal <i>potere</i> followed by clausal negation, a construction which results unambiguous in the adult language and not compatible with a reading expressing impossibility. In a second experiment, we manipulated the context in order to evaluate the effects of the Question Answer Requirement (Husley et al. 2004) on children&#8217;s scope assignment.


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