ERIC Number: ED246681
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1984-Apr
Reference Count: 0
How Do Children Understand the Focus of Negation?
Rumain, Barbara; Braine, Martin D. S.
The focus assigned to sentential negatives is investigated in 7- and 10-year-olds and adults. Two cues are considered as pragmatic indicators of the sentence component(s) to which the negative operator is applied. One is the articles: it is proposed that an indefinite noun phrase is taken within the scope of a negative and a definite noun phrase outside it. A second cue is position: based on previous work, subjects may be expected to take the second noun within the focus of a sentential negative regardless of the articles. The present study sampled a larger variety of sentence structures than a previous, related study, and used multiple experimental techniques. In two experiments, subjects made picture selections for sentences of the form "A Noun1 isn't V-ing the Noun2," The Noun1 isn't V-ing a Noun2," and their passives. In a third experiment, 10-year-olds described the scenes of the sentences of the prior experiments. It was found that position was used as a cue by all age groups, and that all groups took the definite article within the scope of the negative, with the effect being strongest in adults and weakest in the 7-year-olds. Developmental differences in the use of the articles are related to the development of mastery of these linguistic markers. (Author/MSE)
Publication Type: Reports - Research; Speeches/Meeting Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Note: Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Eastern Psychological Association (55th, Baltimore, MD, April 12-15, 1984).