Since Musolino’s (1998) influential work, studies on children’s acquisition of scope interpretation have investigated children’s grammatical knowledge and processing mechanisms that derive the difference between children and adults in their interpretation of scopally ambiguous sentences. In the current work, we propose a processing-based account for the fundamental question of why children do not get some interpretations among alternative interpretations. Being inspired by the argument intervention in the acquisition of A-movement, proposed by Orfitelli (2012), we suggest that children’s parsing mechanism has difficulties in correctly filling the gap (i.e. the base position of the displaced element) with a scope bearing element that undergoes movement if there is another scope bearing element between the filler-gap dependency. We discuss how the current proposal can account for many observations reported in previous works. Furthermore, to show that such an argument intervention effect in the domain of scope acquisition is a matter of configuration, we conducted an experiment on Korean. Korean is a language where an object undergoes movement over negation, which is the argument intervention configuration. We found that Korean-speaking children show the argument intervention effect in learning scope interpretation. This result supports the idea that children’s interpretation of scopally ambiguous sentences is configurationally determined and the immature parser is susceptible to the argument intervention effect.
2. The role of grammar and processing in the acquisition of scope
3. Processing strategies
4. An experiment
5. Final remarks