The Role of Task Characteristics in Children's Scalar Implicature Production


In two experiments, we aimed to show the importance of task characteristics in scalar implicature production. In Experiment 1, we found that five-year-olds were significantly more pragmatic when given an Action-Based Task (ABT), in which they had to respond by performing an action than in a Truth-Value Judgement Task (TVJT), in which they had to evaluate the truth-value of statements. Experiment 2 showed that seven-year-olds were almost exclusively pragmatic on the same ABT and TVJT used in Experiment 1. However, we found a 22% drop in pragmatic responses when the TVJT contained world-knowledge statements (rather than statements about simple objects such as marbles). Together, these two experiments provide evidence that not only the nature of the task, but also its specific content is crucial in determining the extent to which young children produce scalar implicatures.

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