Article published in:First Language Acquisition of Morphology and Syntax: Perspectives across languages and learners
Edited by Pedro Guijarro-Fuentes, María Pilar Larrañaga and John Clibbens
[Language Acquisition and Language Disorders 45] 2008
► pp. 137–159
6. Subject-object asymmetry in children's comprehension of sentences containing logical words
This chapter investigates the influence of syntax, semantics and pragmatics on children’s understanding of sentences containing some and or, showing a subjectobject asymmetry. Chierchia, Crain, Guasti and Thornton (1998) showed that once the scalar implicature is erased (in the prediction mode), children accept that some could mean every (75%), and or could mean and (nearly 100%). 40 Hebrew-speaking children aged 3–6 were tested using eyzeshehu yeled forsome boy and o for or: 22 in the description mode and 18 in the prediction mode. Children accepted the use of inclusive or in the prediction mode (96%) but far less in the description mode (37%). For some, a subject-object asymmetry was found in both modes. In the prediction mode, the implicature was always erased in direct object position, but in subject position the implicature was only erased 40% of the times. Similarly, in the description mode, the scalar implicature was derived in two thirds of the cases in subject position, but in only a third of the cases in object position. This suggests that syntactic position contributes to children’s comprehension of sentences containing logical words and that both the difference between some and or and the subject-object asymmetry stem from specificity, a pragmatic condition which affects reference.
Published online: 26 June 2008