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ERIC Number: EJ820337
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2009-Mar
Pages: 25
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 0
ISSN: ISSN-0010-0285
Finding One's Meaning: A Test of the Relation between Quantifiers and Integers in Language Development
Barner, David; Chow, Katherine; Yang, Shu-Ju
Cognitive Psychology, v58 n2 p195-219 Mar 2009
We explored children's early interpretation of numerals and linguistic number marking, in order to test the hypothesis (e.g., Carey (2004). Bootstrapping and the origin of concepts. "Daedalus", 59-68) that children's initial distinction between "one" and other numerals (i.e., "two," "three," etc.) is bootstrapped from a prior distinction between singular and plural nouns. Previous studies have presented evidence that in languages without singular-plural morphology, like Japanese and Chinese, children acquire the meaning of the word "one" later than in singular-plural languages like English and Russian. In two experiments, we sought to corroborate this relation between grammatical number and integer acquisition within English. We found a significant correlation between children's comprehension of numerals and a large set of natural language quantifiers and determiners, even when controlling for effects due to age. However, we also found that 2-year-old children, who are just acquiring singular-plural morphology and the word "one," fail to assign an exact interpretation to singular noun phrases (e.g., "a banana"), despite interpreting "one" as exact. For example, in a Truth-Value Judgment task, most children judged that "a banana" was consistent with a set of two objects, despite rejecting sets of two for the numeral "one." Also, children who gave exactly one object for singular nouns did not have a better comprehension of numerals relative to children who did not give exactly one. Thus, we conclude that the correlation between quantifier comprehension and numeral comprehension in children of this age is not attributable to the singular-plural distinction facilitating the acquisition of the word "one." We argue that quantifiers play a more general role in highlighting the semantic function of numerals, and that children distinguish between numerals and other quantifiers from the beginning, assigning exact interpretations only to numerals. (Contains 11 figures and 2 tables.)
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A