Determining the Scope of English Quantifiers

Unknown author (1978-06-01)

How can one represent the meaning of English sentences in a formal logical notation such that the translation of English into this logical form is simple and general? This report answers this question for a particular kind of meaning, namely quantifier scope, and for a particular part of the translation, namely the syntactic influence on the translation. Rules are presented which predict, for example, that the sentence: Everyone in this room speaks at least two languages. has the quantifier scope AE in standard predicate calculus, while the sentence: At lease two languages are spoken by everyone in this room. has the quantifier scope EA. Three different logical forms are presented, and their translation rules are examined. One of the logical forms is predicate calculus. The translation rules for it were developed by Robert May (May 19 77). The other two logical forms are Skolem form and a simple computer programming language. The translation rules for these two logical forms are new. All three sets of translation rules are shown to be general, in the sense that the same rules express the constraints that syntax imposes on certain other linguistic phenomena. For example, the rules that constrain the translation into Skolem form are shown to constrain definite np anaphora as well. A large body of carefully collected data is presented, and used to assess the empirical accuracy of each of the theories. None of the three theories is vastly superior to the others. However, the report concludes by suggesting that a combination of the two newer theories would have the greatest generality and the highest empirical accuracy.