Chapter published in:Studies in Chinese and Japanese Language Acquisition: In honor of Stephen Crain
Edited by Mineharu Nakayama, Yi-ching Su and Aijun Huang
[Language Acquisition and Language Disorders 60] 2017
► pp. 197–219
Native and non-native comprehension of the Japanese existential quantifier nanko-ka
This paper discusses native and non-native speakers’ comprehension of the Japanese quantifier nanko-ka, which is viewed as an existential quantifier (cf., some in English) in Japanese. The existential quantifier is argued to be ambiguous at the semantics-pragmatics interface: at the semantic level, it means ‘at least one, possibly all’; at the pragmatic level, it is interpreted as ‘at least one, but not all’. Nanko-ka, as an existential quantifier in Japanese, is expected to exhibit this ambiguity, although there is no data that we are aware of which demonstrates that native speakers indeed access these two interpretations of nanko-ka. Thus, the first goal of the study reported in this paper is to examine native comprehension of this quantifier. As regards the acquisition of the existential quantifier, research in first language acquisition has suggested that children initially have limited access to the pragmatic interpretation of some, in comparison to adults. However, once it comes to adult second language acquisition, how adult L2 learners may cope with the ambiguity of the existential quantifier is not well-known. Given this, the second goal of the current paper is to investigate how nanko-ka is interpreted by English-speaking L2 learners of Japanese.
Published online: 24 August 2017
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