Children's use of syntactic and pragmatic knowledge in the interpretation of novel adjectives

Gil Diesendruck, D. Geoffrey Hall, Susan A. Graham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations

Abstract

In Study 1, English-speaking 3- and 4-year-olds heard a novel adjective used to label one of two objects and were asked for the referent of a different novel adjective. Children were more likely to select the unlabeled object if the two adjectives appeared prenominally (e.g., "a very DAXY dog") than as predicates (e.g., "a dog that is very DAXY"). Study 2 revealed that this response occurred only when both adjectives were prenominal. Study 3 replicated Study 1 with Hebrew-speaking 3- and 4-year-olds, even though in Hebrew both types of adjectives appear postnominally. Preschoolers understand that prenominal adjectives imply a restriction of the reference of nouns, and this knowledge motivates a contrastive pragmatic inference regarding the referents of different prenominal adjectives.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)16-30
Number of pages15
JournalChild Development
Volume77
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 2006

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