A Psychological Investigation of the Use and Interpretation of English Quantifiers

Moxey, Linda Mae (1986) A Psychological Investigation of the Use and Interpretation of English Quantifiers. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Abstract

The work in this thesis is an investigation of quantifiers as they are used and interpreted in everyday language. Attention in the present work is paid to problems of proportion and emphasis, rather than to questions of the scope of quantifiers, which must account for a great deal of the literature on quantification in language. The literature reviews are accordingly restricted and do not address the question of scope. Experiments 1 to 5 are designed to answer questions about the way in which quantifiers relate to amounts or proportions. Experiment 1, in which subjects were invited to describe things in proportional terms, provides a large corpus of quantifiers and the proportions they are used to describe. Experiments 2 to 5 explore the effect of prior expectations on the meaning of quantifiers, and the effects of the use of quantifiers on the proportion which the speaker is believed to expect. These studies show that the proportions denoted by any one quantifier are influenced little, if at all, by prior expectations, a somewhat surprising finding. However, quantifiers do have various effects on the proportion which subjects believe the speaker to have expected in the situation she is describing. The second part of the thesis, and experiments 6 to 8, consider certain aspects of the meanings of quantifiers which are not related to amounts or proportions. Particular attention is paid to the way in which quantifiers can emphasise different subsets of the set which follows them in a piece of discourse. These differences in emphasis are assessed using a sentence continuation method. They are related to the idea of 'focus' which is used in later chapters. Finally, a computer program is used to illustrate one possible process which allows the various aspects of quantifier meanings to be assigned interpretation. The program, like the empirical studies, aims to discover and describe the effects of various quantifiers as they are used by human language users in descriptions of simple situations.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Clinical psychology, Linguistics
Date of Award: 1986
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:1986-77485
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 14 Jan 2020 11:53
Last Modified: 14 Jan 2020 11:53
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/77485

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