Specializations > Morphosyntax

Ambiguity

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binumal:
Kindly look at the following sentence
# I phoned the two patients that every doctor will examine
tomorrow
Are  both the interpretations of this sentence  equally natural ( narrow scope reading Versus wide scope reading of QP 'two patients')

Daniel:
I'm not sure how to measure "equally natural", but both readings are certainly possible. The narrow scope reading is more obvious to me because of a garden path effect, "I phoned the two..." suggests a total of two, until you continue.

binumal:
I would like to know what if we omit the Det 'the' to make the sentence-I phoned  two patients that every doctor will examine
tomorrow

Daniel:
Yes, that makes the alternative reading easier. But having looked at this too long my judgments are now too fuzzy to give you any specifics about likelihood or 'equal naturalness'.

My guess is that by omitting 'the' it just makes the phrase shorter, thereby decreasing the reading span between the beginning and the position of the scope element, so the garden path effect is less obvious. A similar effect would apply for example with "a group of two...", not just definite phrases.

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