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ERIC Number: EJ1030281
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2013
Pages: 33
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 104
ISSN: ISSN-1048-9223
Collectivity, Distributivity, and the Interpretation of Plural Numerical Expressions in Child and Adult Language
Syrett, Kristen; Musolino, Julien
Language Acquisition: A Journal of Developmental Linguistics, v20 n4 p259-291 2013
Sentences containing plural numerical expressions (e.g., "two boys") can give rise to two interpretations (collective and distributive), arising from the fact that their representation admits of a part-whole structure. We present the results of a series of experiments designed to explore children's understanding of this distinction and its implications for the acquisition of linguistic expressions with number words. We show that preschoolers access both interpretations, indicating that they have the requisite linguistic and conceptual machinery to generate the corresponding representations. Furthermore, they can shift their interpretation in response to structural and lexical manipulations. However, they are not fully adult-like: unlike adults, they are drawn to the distributive interpretation and are not yet fully aware of the lexical semantics of "each" and "together," which should favor one or another interpretation. This research bridges a gap between a well-established body of work in cognitive psychology on the acquisition of number words and more recent work investigating children's knowledge of the syntactic and semantic properties of sentences featuring numerical expressions.
Psychology Press. Available from: Taylor & Francis, Ltd. 325 Chestnut Street Suite 800, Philadelphia, PA 19106. Tel: 800-354-1420; Fax: 215-625-2940; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: Preschool Education; Early Childhood Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A