Experimental evidence for the interpretation of definite plural articles as markers of genericity – How Italian can help

Michela Redolfi, Sergio Miguel Pereira Soares, Anna Czypionka, Tanja Kupisch
2021 Glossa  
In the Romance languages, definite plural articles (e.g., le rane 'the frogs') are generally ambiguous between a generic and a specific interpretation, and speakers must reconstruct the intended interpretation through the linguistic or extra-linguistic context. Following the "polar bear" paradigm implemented in Czypionka & Kupisch (2019)'s investigation on German, the goal of the present study is to check the suitability of their test on article semantics, by establishing to what extent native
more » ... peakers of Italian interpret ambiguous definite plural DPs as generic or specific in the presence of a nonlinguistic picture context. We present judgment and reaction time data monitoring the preferred reading of sentences introduced by different kinds of noun phrases (e.g., Le rane/Queste rane/Le rane di solito sono verdi/gialle 'The/These/ Usually frogs are green/yellow'), while looking at pictures showing prototypical or non-prototypical properties (e.g., green vs. yellow frogs). Our results show that both possible interpretations of definite plural articles are routinely considered in Italian, despite the presence of a picture with specific referents, validating the "polar bear" paradigm as a suitable test of article semantics.
doi:10.5334/gjgl.1165 fatcat:6y3zjo2m3zhj5npnskiwxxnlma