At the Semantics/Pragmatics Interface in Child Language

This paper investigates scalar implicatures and downward entailment in child English. In previous experimental work we have shown that adults’ computation of scalar implicatures is sensitive to entailment relations. For instance, when the disjunction operator or occurs in positive contexts, an implicature of exclusivity arises. By contrast when the disjunction operator occurs within the scope of a downward entailing linguistic expression, no implicature of exclusivity is computed. Investigations on children’s computation of scalar implicatures in the same contexts have led to a slightly different picture. In particular it has proven difficult to demonstrate that children compute scalar implicatures (in non- downward entailing contexts) using the Truth Value Judgment task, a technique that has been used successfully in showing children’s sensitivity to other semantic phenomena. Adopting a different experimental technique called the Felicity Judgment task, however, we demonstrated children’s knowledge of the prerequisites to the computation of scalar implicatures (Chierchia, Crain, Guasti, Gualmini and Meroni, 2001).
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