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The role of context and functionality in the interpretation of quantifiers

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The aim of the three experiments that are reported was to investigate the role of context, especially size and functionality, in the interpretation of quantifiers. The studies all used a task in which participants rated the appropriateness of quantifiers describing the number of balls in a bowl. The size of the balls was found to have an effect: Identical numbers of balls were given different ratings depending on ball size. It was also found that quantifiers were rated as more appropriate when the balls were in their natural functional relationship with the bowl (i.e., contained within the bowl), than when the functional relationship was breached (i.e., the balls overflowed the bowl). Tilting the bowl had surprising effects in that it led to some quantifiers being rated as more appropriate. The results are interpreted as indicating that quantifiers carry little specific meaning in themselves but instead derive their meaning from the context in which they occur.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: June 1, 2000


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