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Review of  Quantifier Scope in German

Reviewer: Michael T. Putnam
Book Title: Quantifier Scope in German
Book Author: Jürgen Pafel
Publisher: John Benjamins
Linguistic Field(s): Linguistic Theories
Subject Language(s): German
Issue Number: 17.2099

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Author: Pafel, Jürgen
Title: Quantifier Scope in German
Publisher: John Benjamins
Year: 2005

Michael T. Putnam, Department of Languages and Literatures, Michigan State

*This review benefited greatly from comments and correspondence with
Winfried Lechner, Jie Zhang and Jürgen Pafel. Any remaining shortcomings
are my own.


As clearly stated in the title, the central topic of this monograph focuses
on quantifier scope in German. In this revised version of his
Habilitationsschrift ''Skopus und logische Struktur. Studien zum
Quantorenskopus im Deutschen'' (1997) (Universität Tübingen) Jürgen Pafel
delivers a comprehensive account of quantifier scope in German. The scope
behavior both of ordinary quantifiers and negative, adverbial,
interrogative, relative and particle quantifiers is investigated. In the
preface to this work Pafel accurately affirms the bold challenge of
analyzing quantifier scope within the parameters of linguistic theory:

''Quantifier scope is a challenge to linguistic theory as it is a phenomenon
which is determined by the interplay of different factors. Such
interactions have not been studied in depth and theoretical frameworks are
not well prepared to cope with true interactions ...Quantifier scope is
basically a semantic phenomenon, it is, however, an interface phenomenon
par excellence too, as the interaction of factors determining quantifier
scope is part of the constraints relating syntax and semantics, more
precisely, part of the constraints connecting syntactic and semantic
structure'' (xiii).

In this work Pafel develops an independent level of linguistic structure
known as ''semantic structure'', or quite simply ''s-structure'', at which
semantic phenomena such as quantifier scope are constructed and
interpreted. This predominantly functionalist approach proposes ''linear
models'' with linear equations ''which predicts the observed scope readings
and their degree of preference quite accurately'' (p. 51). In establishing
the form and function of s-structure and how it would properly working
within a linguistic theory, Pafel reaches the conclusion that
transformational models of grammar are flawed in their inability to
accurately predict (i.e. a lack of both descriptive and explanatory
adequacy) quantifier scope constructions in German. Likewise, Pafel also
points out potential conceptual weaknesses quantifier scope constructions
in German encounter within Optimality-Theory. The purpose of this review is
to offer a critical analysis of Pafel's contribution to linguistic theory
in this book, namely, the concept of a separate, non-configurational
linguistic level labeled semantic structure.


In Chapter 1 (Preliminaries), Pafel gives an introduction to the empirical
and theoretical aspects of quantifier scope and presents the syntactic and
semantic assumptions that enter into this investigation. In my opinion,
Pafel does an excellent job of setting up his general argument with a
thorough discussion and explanation of the basic terminology that he makes
regular use of throughout the course of the text. Pafel even goes into
substantial detail in describing and defending his data elicitation and
evaluation procedures. In Section 1.1.2, Pafel attacks the
''syntactocentristic'' view of linguistic theory as developed by Noam Chomsky
since 1975. The main premise behind this criticism of the Chomskian model
lies in the lack of independence awarded to semantic structure. Within this
transformational system there is a level of semantic interpretation called
logical form (LF), where scope takes the form of a syntactic theory of
scope; however, to a large extent the semantics of a given sentence is
dependent upon its syntactic structure. In contrast, Pafel favors a
non-configurational view the linguistic system which copes with diverse
aspects of linguistic signs (cf. their phonetic-phonological, prosodic,
morphological, syntactic, and semantic aspects) by generating relative
autonomous, parallel structural descriptions of these aspects. While
campaigning for ''semantic independence'' one of the fundamental issues – if
not the fundamental issue – discussed in this book is the true nature of
semantic structure and its relationship to syntactic structure.

In Chapter 2 (Relative scope), Pafel further develops his linear model of
how quantifier scope is determined in German and comes to the conclusion
that relative scope is configurationally represented on a level of
representation which is not a syntactic, but a semantic, level dubbed
''semantic structure''. In his discussion of ''some basic patterns of
Q/Q-interaction'' (2.1), Pafel introduces an apparent weakness in
attributing quantifier scope to syntactic considerations (i.e. by assuming
that relative scope can be determined by the c-command relations of
quantifiers and their traces). Pafel contends that ''configurational
theories'' such as minimalism and their treatment of quantifier scope would
lead to ungrammatical constructions such as Weak Cross Over (WCO) effects.
Interestingly here Pafel provides only English data (p. 59) to illustrate
WCO effects. The generalization that changes in the word order of arguments
do not lead to WCO effects in German is attested by many authors (cf.
Webelhuth 1992, Frank, Lee & Rambow 1996, Putnam 2006). Therefore the
relevance of mentioning WCO effects as a possible shortcoming of
transformational theories such as minimalism in relation to quantifier
scope bears no effect on the discussion of German data.

In the middle of Chapter 2, Pafel establishes a healthy laundry list of
multiple linguistic properties responsible for determining relative scope.
The author identifies no less than 13 properties that determine relative
scope, which can be divided into eight groups.

1. Syntactic constellation
2. Grammatical function
3. Thematic Property
4. Distributivity
5. D(iscourse)-binding
6. Definiteness
7. Focus
8. Negation Attraction

In discussing the ''syntactic constellation'' in relation to quantifier
scope, Pafel collapses linear precedence and c-command into this
aforementioned term. This is somewhat of a misnomer in that constituents
may indeed reside in a position of linear precedence while simultaneously
not c-commanding lower constituents (for example, if the linear superior
element participates in adjunction). The lack of clear distinctions between
linear precedence and c-command sometimes blurs the exact nature and
function of ''syntactic constellation'' in Pafel's model. According to Pafel,
the critical data are to be found in the relations between attributive
quantifiers inside a noun phrase, i.e. the scope relations between
quantificational PP or genitive attributes in noun phrases (p. 63-4). Pafel
introduces sub-domains of VP to support his properties of
internal-precedence (IN-PRE) and external-precedence (EX-PRE), making a
distinction between quantifiers that reside in the Vorfeld and Mittelfeld
domains of German clauses. The ontology of these 'sub-domains' tangentially
resemble Chomsky's notion of strong phases (vP and CP). Surprisingly, Pafel
does not make mention of Chomsky's seminal work on minimalism (the latest
work of Chomsky's that he sites in his bibliography is Barriers (1986)).

The remainder of Chapter 2 demonstrates how the interplay of these various
grammatical properties of quantifier scope are calculated and assessed
through weighted, numerical constraints (pp. 88-106). At first blush it
would appear that such constraints may be able to be mapped into a
representational theory of grammar such as Optimality Theory (OT), Pafel
addresses this claim by noting a stark contrast between linear models and
OT. In the former model, structures are evaulated as possible/impossible
and preferred/not preferred such that there might exist several possible
structures with distinct or the same degree of preference. The structures
do not compete with one another, but ever structure is evaluated
independently of the other ones. Finally, in linear model the constraints
are numerically weighted rather than hierarchically arranged as in OT (cf.
p. 124). Although Pafel rejects traditional OT, it appears that his
approach is representational at its core. Arguing for a level where
quantifier scope is configurationally represented – distinct from the
syntactic level – also offers a blueprint for a potential new design of LF

Chapters 3 (Absolute scope), 4 (Indefinites and quantifiers) and 5
(Interrogative quantifiers) provide an in depth discussion and treatment of
the aforementioned aspects of quantifier scope and their existence in
German. In Chapter 3, the quantifier scope properties of complex sentences
in German are investigated with an integrated model of absolute and
relative scope determination being introduced as the appropriate mechanism
to handle these structures. In Chapter 4, different types of indefinite
noun phrases are distinguished: quantificational and non-quantificational
ones, and, among the non-quantificational ones, non-specific, (weakly and
strongly) specific and generic indefinite noun phrases. This chapter
uncovers the quirky behavior of non-quantificational indefinite noun
phrases: these different indefinites are ''uniformly analyzed as names (of a
kind), which, in semantic structure, may lead to, or trigger, the
introduction of a quantifier which ranges over the instances of the kind
(the quantifier can be an existential one or some variety of a generic
quantifier)'' (pp. xiv-xv). This special type of quantifier is argued to not
have a syntactic counterpart and thus only appears in in the level of
semantic structure. Chapter 5 completes Pafel's investigation of the major
areas of quantifier scope in German and confirms the hypothesis established
in earlier chapters that wh-phrases and are quantifiers subject to the same
regularities as non-interrogative quantifiers.

Chapter 6 (Alternative scope accounts) and Chapter 7 (Towards a theory of
semantic structure) function as the locus of Pafel's central claims in this
book. In Chapter 6, a survey of alternative theoretical models
(configurational, semantically and pragmatically-based theories as well as
multi-factor theories) are introduced and critiqued. In Chapter 7, the
basic construction and interpretation of the independent level of semantic
structure is delivered. Turning first to Chapter 6, Pafel asserts that
modern configurational (syntactic theories) attempts to explain scope can
be deduced purely from formal structural configurations (i.e. c-command).
In particular, Pafel takes issue with May's (1985) reformulation of LF to
account for wh/Q-interaction and its inability to to account for the facts
of this relationship in both English and German (cf. Section 5.2). To
support this claim Pafel provides two pivotal data sets showing that the
reading with the direct object outscoping the subject depends on the
lexical properties of the quantifiers involved ((1) and (2) below) and
sentences with topicalization ((3) – (6) below) (both data sets taken from
Pafel pp. 239-40).

(1) Most of the students read every book.

(every > most: *)

(2) Some of the students read every book.

(every > some: OK)

Topicalization examples:

(3) All of us have read many of these books with great enthusiasm.


(4) Many of these books, all of us have read with great enthusiasm.

(only: many > all)

(5) Many people come to New York every summer.


(6) Every summer, many people come to New York.

(only: every > many)

As noted by Pafel, ''Changing the relative precedence of two quantifiers by
topicalization in English has the same effect as topicalization and
scrambling in German: the scope value of the preceding quantifier becomes
distinctly great such that the wide scope reading of the quantifiers
becomes available or even the only possible reading – depending on how high
the scope value is without taking syntactic constellation into account'' (p.
240). In conclusion to his discussion of configurational theories of scope
interpretation and their subsequent weaknesses, Pafel notes that since the
mid 1980s it has become common place to interpret not only the position of
the quantifier in syntactic structure, but also the position of its traces.
A blatant shortcoming of these sorts of theories is that they are ununified
with respect to exactly where scope determination takes place: on logical
form, on s-structure or on a reconstructed structure (cf. p. 244).

Concerning multi-factor theories (cf. Section 6.3), Pafel primarily focuses
his attention on the work of Beghelli, Stowell and Szabolcsi in Szabolcsi
(ed.) (1997). The basic idea behind these theories is that quantifiers can
or must occupy distinct position at LF depending on the quantifier type
they belong to. Under this approach, scope determination ''becomes an
epiphenomenon of feature checking'' (p. 255). Such a minimalist theory makes
the following predictions (data from Pafel 256-57).

(7) Every (/each) student reads two books. (ambiguous)

(8) Two students read every (/each) book. (ambiguous)

(9) Jeder Pianist hat zwei Beethoven Sonaten in seinem Repertoire.
every piano play has two Beethoven sonatas in his repertoire
'Every piano player has two Beethoven sonatas in his repertoire.'

(10) Zwei Beethoven-Sonaten hat jeder Pianist in seinem Repertoire.
two Beethoven sonatas has every piano play in his repertoire
'Two Beethoven sonatas, every piano player has in his repertoire.'

In both (7) and (8) we have a group-denoting quantifier phrase (GQP) (two
books, two students) and a distributive-universal quantifer phrase (DQP)
(every or each). Accordingly, ''a GQP should be scopally ambiguous with
respect to a clausemate DQP, depending on whether the GQP move to Spec of
RefP or to Spec of ShareP'' (Beghelli/Stowell 1997:80). The data in (9) and
(10) show that the predictions of the theory are at variance with the facts
in German (and several other languages). According to Beghelli/Stowell, any
sort of contrast in (9) and (10) is unpredicted and unexpected; both
sentences should produce an equally ambiguous scope reading. As a result,
Pafel concludes that fixed positions at LF do not and can not explain the
various grammatical properties involved in determining relative scope.

Chapter 7 provides a sketch of the nature of semantic structure, the level
of analysis where the meaning-compositional aspects of the readings of a
sentence and its parts are represented. In this chapter, Pafel focuses on
three principal aspects of his newly defined semantic structure, namely,
the semantic features and semantic structures that make up this level of
analysis (7.1), the interpretation of semantic structrues (7.2) and the
construction of semantic structrues from syntactic ones (7.3). Chapter 8
(Conclusion) – which consists of only two pages – wraps up this work.


First and foremost, this book is an excellent resource for anyone pursuing
an in depth study of quantifier scope in German. The ocean of data provided
in the first five chapters function as a great springboard for anyone
researching this topic or topics closely related to it. My main criticisms
with this work lie within the theoretical assumptions and conclusions put
forth by Pafel. First, let us consider Pafel's statements about OT.
Pafel's brief discussion of OT (p. 124) concludes that the main problem
that besets this representational framework is its lack of cumulativity.
According to a cumulative view of OT, a candidate is deemed a loser in OT
if it violates a higher ranked constraint that other competing candidates.
With cumulativity through the introduction of numerical, weighted
constraints in a linear model this is not a problem: A candidate can
violate a higher ranked constraint and be grammatical if it fulfills enough
lower ranked constraints, i.e. the violation can be compensated. Thus ''a
quantifier's tendency to wide scope gets stronger if it satisfies more
scope-relevant properties ... In other words, the fact that the values a
quantifier gets relative to each scope-relevant properties are added up to
its scope value is what makes the linear model cumulative, or, additive''
(Jürgen Pafel, personal communication). Such a conclusion rests solely upon
a primitive notion of OT and ignores the works of those such as Flemming
(2001) on how to appropriately include weighted constraints into the
OT-framework. As shown by Flemming, the application of weighted constraints
in OT can be achieved without introducing additional complex machinery to
the language system. Speaking of complex machinery and economy
considerations, similar to OT, Pafel's linear model is incredibly
complicated in that multiple (perhaps an infinite number of them?)
candidates must be evaluated along with the calculation and assessment of
each and every numerically weighted constraint. Therefore although this
model addressed a multitude of grammatical properties involved in
determining quantifier scope although with their numerical weight, it is
inherently complex from a mental processing standpoint.

Considering its potential relation to derivational, configurational
theories of syntax-semantics interaction (i.e. minimalism), Pafel states
that his semantic structure is ''a new kind of argument for 'logical form'''
(p. 115). Adherents to the minimalist program should focus on Section 7.3
(the construction of semantic structures from syntactic structures) in any
attempt to better understand how ''semantic structure'' could potentially
serve to improve and revise an understanding of LF. Many of the theoretical
shortcomings pertaining to configurational (syntactic) and multi-factor
frameworks brought to light by Pafel in Chapter 6 should, however, be
seriously considered. For example, Pafel's claims that since the mid 1980s
most, if not all, derivational treatments of scope determination rest not
only on the quantifier's final position but also the placement of its
traces exposes a current weakness in the minimalist program, namely, how
exactly are lower traces, i.e. copies, of moved constituents interpreted?
If quantifier raising involves adjunction, is there perhaps a different
sort of trace/copy mechanism involved in this mechanism of traversal?
Regarding the argument for or against fixed positions at LF, Pafel
(personal communication) points out that many operations – such as middle
field scrambling in German – that also appear to lack fixed positions and
can hardly be attributed solely to operations in the narrow syntax. This,
of course, raises the timeless question behind the motivation of movement
operations in the narrow syntax. Not only that, but such data and inquiries
also question the premise of a catographic approach to the construction of
phrase structure and natural clauses. In this regard, Pafel's work also
finds a home among scholars of minimalism in their quest to better
understand LF.

In conlcusion, this book is well-written and has a nice, logical
progression with its presentation of data and relative arguments. In
Chapters 6 and 7, Pafel raises many questions for proponents and opponents
to dominant linguistics schools of thought (e.g. minimalists, adherents of
OT, those in support of non-transformational frameworks, etc.). Although
what Pafel provides his reader regarding his notion of ''semantic structure''
in Chapter 7 is only a sketch at this point in time, it will be interesting
in time to see what developments and adaptations stem from this work, not
only by the hands of the author, but also by those who use this book as a
reference source.


Beghelli, Filippo and Tim Stowell. (1997) Distributivity and Negation: The
Syntax of Each and Every. In Anna Szabolcsi (ed.), Ways of Scope Taking.
Dodrecht: Kluwer, 71-107.

Chomsky, Noam. (1986) Barriers. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Flemming, Edward. (2001) Scalar and Categorical Phenomena in a Unified
Model of Phonetics and Phonology. Phonology. 18(1): 7-44.

Frank, Robert, Young-Suk and Lee, and Owen Rambow. (1996) Scrambling
Reconstruction and Subject Binding. Rivista di Grammatica Generativa. 21:

Putnam, Michael T. (2006) Scrambling in West Germanic as XP-Adjunction: A
Critical Analysis of Prolific Domains. Ph.D. dissertation. University of

Szabolcsi, Anna (ed.). (1997) Ways of Scope Taking. Dordrecht: Kluwer.

Webelhuth, Gert. (1992) Principles and Parameters and Syntactic Saturation.
Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Michael T. Putnam is a Visiting Assistant Professor of German at Michigan
State University. His primary research areas lie in German linguistics and
syntactic theory, with a particular focus on the syntax-pragmatic
interface, Germanic languages (diachronic and synchronic) and
German-American dialects (with a focus on Pennsylvania German).