Urbach, T., Kutas, M. (2010). Quantifiers more or less quantify on-line: ERP evidence for partial incremental interpretation, Journal of Memory and Language, 63 (2), pp. 158-179.


Event-related brain potentials were recorded during RSVP reading to test the hypothesis that quantifier expressions are incrementally interpreted fully and immediately. In sentences tapping general knowledge (Farmers grow crops/worms as their primary source of income), Experiment 1 found larger N400s for atypical (worms) than typical objects (crops). Experiment 2 crossed object typicality with non-logical subject noun phrase quantifiers (most, few). Offline plausibility ratings exhibited the crossover interaction predicted by full quantifier interpretation: Most farmers grow crops and Few farmers grow worms were rated more plausible than Most farmers grow worms and Few farmers grow crops. Object N400s, although modulated in the expected direction, did not reverse. Experiment 3 replicated these findings with adverbial quantifiers (Farmers often/rarely grow crops/worms). Interpretation of quantifier expressions thus is neither fully immediate nor fully delayed. Furthermore, object atypicality was associated with a frontal slow positivity in few-type/rarely quantifier contexts, suggesting systematic processing differences among quantifier types.


Marta Kutas

Thomas Urbach


Cognitive Electrophysiology Lab