Quantifiers and Intervention Effects: An Experimental Investigation

Min Jegal 1 ,
Author Information & Copyright
1Kyungpook National University
Corresponding Author: E-mail:

ⓒ Copyright 2021 Language Education Institute, Seoul National University. This is an Open-Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Received: Jan 01, 2021 ; Revised: Aug 09, 2021 ; Accepted: Sep 17, 2021

Published Online: Dec 31, 2021


This study investigates why some quantifiers incur intervention effects while others do not at LF. Based on the understanding that controversial acceptability judgments of the relevant sentences make it difficult to precisely distinguish interveners from non-interveners, this study tests Korean intervention constructions via a formal experimentation. With reliable data from the experiment, I argue that an intervening factor is linked to the epistemic “non-specific” property and there is no absolute set of intervening quantifiers. The intervening status of a quantifier can be “off” when the addressee perceives it as a particular individual by context or real-world knowledge. This novel perspective provides a more convincing and unified account of the intervention phenomenon and its gradience in acceptability than previous studies in which the effect of “context” is ignored or underestimated.

Keywords: intervention effects; quantifiers; scrambling; embedding; D-linking; specificity



Beck, S. (1996). Quantified structures as barriers for LF movement. Natural Language Semantics, 4(1), 1-56 .


Beck, S. (2006). Intervention effects follow form focus interpretation. Natural Language Semantics, 14, 1-56 .


Beck, S. & Kim, S. -S. (1997). On wh-and operator scope in Korean. Journal of East Asian Linguistics, 6, 339-384 .


Choi, Y. -S. (2007). Intervention effect in Korean wh-questions: Indefinite and beyond. Lingua, 117, 2055-2076 .


Chomsky, N. (1973). Conditions on transformations. In S. Anderson, & P. Kiparsky (Eds.), A Festschrift for Morri Halle(pp. 232-286). New York: Holt, Reinhart and Winston .


Diesing, M. (1992). Indefinites. Cambridge: MIT Press .


Enç, M. (1991). The semantics of specificity. Linguistic Inquiry, 1-25 .


Erlewine, M. Y., & Kotek, H. (2017). Intervention tracks scope-rigidity in Japanese. Proceedings of LENLS, 14 .


Farkas, D. F. (1994). Specificity and scope. In L. Nash, & G. Tsoulas (Eds.), Langues et Grammaire(Vol. 1) .


Farkas, D. F. (2002). Specificity distinctions. Journal of Semantics, 19(3), 213-243 .


Fodor, J. D., & Sag, I. A. (1982). Referential and quantificational indefinites. Linguistics and Philosophy, 5(3), 355-398 .


Ha, I. (2004). Specificity and intervention effects in Korean. LSO working papers in linguistics (Vol. 4, pp. 21-31). Madison, Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Linguistics. Proceedings of WIGL .


Hoji, H. (1985). Logical form constraints and configurational structures in Japanese (Doctoral dissertation). University of Washington .


Kim, J. (2018). Intervention effect, scope, and type-shifting. Linguistic Research, 35(2), 305-335 .


Kim, S. -S. (2002). Questions, focus, and intervention effects. In Kuno & Susumu (Eds.) Harvard studies in Korean linguistics (Vol. 6, pp. 520-533) .


Mogi, T. (2000). Toritate-shi-no kaisosei-ni tsuite [on the layeredness of focus particles]. In Proceedings of the Fall 2000 meeting of the Society for Japanese Linguistics (pp. 54-61) .


Moon, G. S., Wee, H. K., Kim, S. W., Park, M. K., Yim, C. K., & Kim, C. M. (2009). Brain responses to intervention effects in Korean. Korean Journal of Linguistics, 34(3), 529-551 .


Pesetsky, D. (1987). Wh-in-situ: Movement and unselective binding. In E. Reuland, & A. ter Meulen (Eds.), The representation of (in)definiteness (pp. 98-129). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press .


Luigi, R. (1990). Relativized minimality. Cambridge: MIT Press .


Luigi, R. (2013). Locality. Lingua 130, 169-186 .


Tenny, C. L. (2006). Evidentiality, experiencers, and the syntax of sentience in Japanese. Journal of East Asian Linguistics, 15(3), 245-288 .


Tomioka, S. (2007). Pragmatics of LF intervention effects: Wh-interrogatives in Japanese and Korean. Journal of Pragmatics 39, 1570-1590 .