Individual variation in children's early production of negation

AbstractThe ability to express negation is an important part of early language. Despite the fact that negation is a complex and abstract concept, “No” is one of the first words that children produce. Past analyses have found that children’s early negations tend to express concepts like refusal (negations expressing that a child does not want to do something) rather than denial (negations expressing that something is false). Does this mean that young children are incapable of expressing denial? In Study 1, we examine children’s spontaneous production of negation and find that some children produce denial negation earlier and more frequently than past literature suggests. In Study 2, we examine one possible explanation for individual variation in children’s negation production: differences in the joint activities that they engage in with their caregivers. A comparison of two children suggests that reading may be associated with the production of denial negation. We discuss our data in light of previous findings, and suggest that certain communicative contexts are more likely to elicit different types of negation.

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