ERIC Number: EJ1036335
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2014-Sep
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: N/A
Show Me the Pragmatic Contribution: A Developmental Investigation of Contrastive Inference
Kronmuller, Edmundo; Morisseau, Tiffany; Noveck, Ira A.
Journal of Child Language, v41 n5 p985-1014 Sep 2014
An utterance such as "Show me the large rabbit" potentially generates a "contrastive inference," i.e., the article "the" and the adjective "large" allow listeners to pragmatically infer the existence of other entities having the same noun (e.g. a "small" rabbit). The primary way to measure children's ability to carry out this pragmatic inference has been through tasks that measure infelicity detection. We argue that such studies are not as revealing as one might assume because they force children to adopt a metalinguistic stance and they consider infelicity detection as tantamount to contrastive inference-making. To address these concerns, we develop a game-like situation in which all utterances remain felicitous. Moreover, we make a distinction between responses that are revealing of a pragmatic interpretation and responses that are revealing of a reliance on the utterance's "linguistically encoded" meaning (i.e., a lack of contrastive inference). Three experiments with seven-year-olds, ten-year-olds, and adults show that pragmatic interpretations do not emerge among seven-year-olds, that ten-year-olds do not show adult-like performance, and that adults are not at ceiling. We conclude that contrastive inference-making is an effortful process and that the ability to detect such gains-in-information through language increases with age.
Descriptors: Child Language, Inferences, Pragmatics, Nouns, Form Classes (Languages), Language Acquisition, Developmental Stages, Age Differences, Metalinguistics, Adults
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
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