Linguistics Research Seminar Series:Comparing children’s acquisition of scalar inferences: A look at free choice and embedded questions
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Comparing children’s acquisition of scalar inferences: A look at free choice and embedded questions
Dr. Lyn Tieu, École Normale Supérieure, LSCP, CNRS
A recent approach in the acquisition literature has involved comparing children’s acquisition of scalar implicatures to that of other inferences that have likewise been argued to be scalar in nature. The idea behind such an approach is that two phenomena driven by a common underlying mechanism may be expected to manifest similar developmental profiles. In this talk,
I will present two case studies involving phenomena where 4- and 5-year-old children are revealed to be adult-like, in contrast to typical findings of non-adult-like performance on scalar implicatures. The first study reveals an adult-like capacity to compute free choice inferences from disjunction and free choice indefinites (Tieu, Romoli, Zhou, & Crain, under review); the second reveals adult-like sensitivity to the various exhaustive readings of embedded questions (Cremers, Tieu, & Chemla, in prep). Both sets of results force us to examine more closely the theoretical claims about the underlying mechanisms of the respective phenomena. We must either draw the conclusion that the underlying mechanisms differ in nature from those underlying scalar implicatures, or further refine our explanation of how children acquire adult-like competence in the different cases.