Linguistic practice and false-belief tasks

Mind and Language 25 (3):298-328 (2010)

Abstract

Jill de Villiers has argued that children's mastery of sentential complements plays a crucial role in enabling them to succeed at false-belief tasks. Josef Perner has disputed that and has argued that mastery of false-belief tasks requires an understanding of the multiplicity of perspectives. This paper attempts to resolve the debate by explicating attributions of desires and beliefs as extensions of the linguistic practices of making commands and assertions, respectively. In terms of these linguistic practices one can explain why desire-talk will precede belief-talk and why even older children will have difficulty attributing incompatible desires

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