Evidential particles and mind-reading
The paper investigates the acquisition of the semantics/pragmatics of two Modern Greek evidential markers taha (‘supposedly’) and dithen (‘as if’, ‘so-called’) and possible correlations with children’s mind-reading abilities. Between (a) an evidential–ironical interpretation and (b) a pretence interpretation, earliest uses of these particles (in spontaneous children’s speech) suggest that pretence-interpretations, rather than evidential ones, are the first to develop (Ifantidou, to appear). This production finding is mapped onto input occurrences of taha and dithen in (i) children’s readers, (ii) adults’ prose, and (iii) adults’ speech. High prevalence of pretence interpretations is observed in (i), with high prevalence of evidential interpretations in (ii) and (iii). These findings are cross-checked by linguistic tasks run with nursery (4–5 years old) and 6–12 year-old children. The results also point to an early acquisition of the pretence-interpretation and a later acquisition of the particles’ evidential uses. Finally, non-linguistic experiments are run with the nursery (4–5 year-old) children to assess their evidential cognitive abilities. Two questions arise: (1) If children lack the semantics/pragmatics of evidential taha and dithen, do they also lack the relevant mind-reading abilities? (2) If children exhibit an earlier working capacity of pretence-interpretations, is there an explanation for why this is so? In addressing these issues, I will explore the possibility that availability of evidential lexical items in language presupposes availability of relevant concepts, and suggest, in turn, a degree of developmental interdependence between cognition and language.
Cited by 2 other publications
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