Ionin Colloquium

May 29
Wieboldt 408
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
One reading for every word order: scope, scrambling and prosody in native and non-native Russian

This paper examines the scope readings of Russian double-quantifier sentences like (1) in both native and non-native Russian, focusing on the relative contributions of word order, prosody, and information structure. Corresponding English sentences are ambiguous between surface-scope and inverse-scope readings, which are commonly derived by covert QR of either the subject QP or the object QP to a higher position at LF (e.g., May 1977, Heim & Kratzer 1998). For Russian, Ionin (2003) argues that scope of (1) is frozen in prosodically neutral sentences: the preverbal QP is in Topic position, with covert QR above Topic position being impossible. Ionin ties this claim to the ability of Russian objects to move overtly, resulting in OVS order (cf. Bailyn 1995). Ionin argues that scrambled OVS sentences, just like SVO sentences, have only surface-scope readings: in the scrambled sentences, the scrambled object is in Topic position, and Ionin proposes that topics cannot reconstruct. In contrast, Antonyuk (2006) argues that covert QR does apply in Russian, and that both SVO and OVS orders are ambiguous. Finally, Ionin (2003) argues that contrastive focus facilitates inverse scope, allowing covert QR and reconstruction (cf. Krifka 1998, Bobaljik & Wurmbrand 2012, on the relationship between scope and focus in other languages).

(1)     Odna    devochka        pogladila       kazhdogo        kotenka.
        One     girl-NOM        stroked-Fem     every           kitten-ACC
        "One girl stroked every kitten".
        Surface-scope (one>every): A specific girl stroked all the kittens.
        Inverse-scope (every>one): For every kitten, there is a (potentially different) girl who stroked it.

In order to determine which factors influence scope interpretation in Russian, we conducted an experimental study with adult native Russian speakers. Participants listened to sentences in the context of pictures that matched either the surface-scope or the inverse-scope interpretation, and indicated whether the sentence matched the picture. We manipulated word order (SVO vs. OVS), quantifier configuration (indefinite subject and universal object, vs. universal subject and indefinite object), prosody (neutral, vs. with contrastive stress on the indefinite), and information structure (a topic-comment vs. a contrastive focus configuration). Our findings show that under neutral prosody and the topic-comment information structure configuration, surface scope is strongly preferred to inverse scope, consistent with Ionin (2003). Contrastive focus on the indefinite facilitates inverse scope for both SVO and OVS orders, with a particularly strong effect in the latter case. We discuss these findings in light of the literature on the relationship between scope and focus.

In the second phase of this study, we examine the relationship between scope and focus in the Russian of second language (L2) learners and heritage speakers. Prior studies of scope in L2-acquisition (Marsden 2004, Chung 2013) find native/dominant language transfer of available scope interpretations. No prior L2-scope studies have considered the role of prosody. Preliminary results indicate that only highly advanced heritage speakers of Russian have a target-like preference for surface scope, and show sensitivity to the role of contrastive prosody; adult L2-learners and lower-level heritage speakers perform in a manner consistent with transfer from English, allowing both surface and inverse scope, with no consistent effect of prosody. The similar performance in the two groups is consistent with the claim (Montrul 2010) that L2-learners and heritage speakers face similar difficulties, and that both are affected by transfer. We are currently using both oral and written measures of proficiency, with both groups, in order to determine which factor(s) (oral proficiency, written proficiency, context of acquisition, years of input) contribute to target-like scope interpretation.