The Semantics and Pragmatics of Logical Connectives: Adults' and Children's Interpretations of And and Or in a Guessing Game


The development of the ubiquitous logical connectives "and" and "or" provides a window into the role of semantics and pragmatics in children's linguistic development. Previous research suggested that adults and children might differ in their interpretation of "or" in two ways. First, unlike adults, children might interpret "or" as "and". Second, children might interpret "or" as inclusive disjunction while adults interpret it as exclusive. We report experimental studies that probe interpretations of "and" and "or" in adults and children using truth value judgements and children's spontaneous linguistic feedback. Both measures showed that four-year-olds do not interpret "or" as "and". Children's truth judgments suggested that they did not derive exclusivity implicatures. Yet their corrective feedback showed signs of sensitivity to the implicature, suggesting that the truth judgement task could have underestimated children's pragmatic competence. More generally, four-year-olds' interpretation of logical connectives may not be as different from adults as previously supposed.

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