LINGUIST List 15.3332
Tue Nov 30 2004
Diss: Language Acquisition:Leah Gedalyovich: Towards ...
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Towards an explanation of first language acquisition of Hebrew coordination
Message 1: Towards an explanation of first language acquisition of Hebrew coordination
From: leah gedalyovich <glh33zahav.net.il>
Subject: Towards an explanation of first language acquisition of Hebrew coordination
Program: Department of Foreign Literatures and Linguistics: Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2004
Author: Leah Rachel Gedalyovich
Dissertation Title: Towards an explanation of first language acquisition of
Linguistic Field(s): Language Acquisition
This dissertation reports an experimental investigation of Hebrew-speaking
children's knowledge of truth-conditional (semantic) and
non-truth-conditional (semantic and pragmatic) properties of coordinated
sentences such as (1):
(1) yored geshem ve/aval/o ha shemesh zoraxat
'it's raining and/but/or the sun is shining'
Within a model of language acquisition following from generative grammar, I
assume the answer to the logical question of language acquisition lies in
early (if not innate) knowledge of not only grammar (syntax and
compositional syntax), but also (parts of) pragmatics. The developmental
question of language acquisition is then answered by arguing that the
realization of both types of language knowledge may be regulated by general
cognitive abilities such as the ability to process complex relations.
I consider three different categories of meaning with respect to
coordination. These are: (semantic) truth-conditional meaning, (semantic)
conventional non-truth-conditional meaning and (pragmatic) conversational
implicatures. I first define the relations of the truth conditions of
coordination (using traditional formal logic), the contrast element of
aval/but (using the analysis suggested by Winter and Rimon, 1994) and the
relevant scalar and clausal conversational implicatures (using Gazdar's
(1979) analysis). Furthermore, I make use of Levinson's (2000) analysis of
generalized versus particularized covnersational implicatures to
distinguish between developmental and non-developmental implicature
phenomena. I then analyze the complexity of each of these relations using
Halford, Wilson and Phillips' (1998) relational complexity metric.
Relational complexity is measured in terms of the number of elements which
must be considered simultaneously in order for the relation to be
processed. This leads to specific predictions regarding the expected age of
acquisition of each defined element. The main predictions are:
1) Children will demonstrate knowledge of truth conditions of the
coordinators by the age of 5 years.
2) Children will not demonstrate knowledge of the contrast element and the
scalar conversational implicature, even by 9;6 years.
3) Adults will show consistent and uniform responses to tasks involving
generalized conversational implicatures and inconsistent, non-uniform
reponses to tasks involving particularized conversational implicatures.
I tested the knowledge of these semantic and pragmatic properties of
coordinated sentences in 136 mono-lingual Hebrew-speakers (119 children
aged 2;6 through 9;6 and 17 adults) with 8 judgement tasks involving truth
or felicity judgements of a puppet's coordinated sentences describing
pictures. A further task of carrying out instructions was admninistered to
the youngest participants. The results supported my predicitons. I conclude
that my evidence supports an answer to the developmental question of
language acquisition where (at least the investigated) differences between
child and adult language behaviors result from an immature cognitive
ability to process complex relations, rather than from underdeveloped
pragmatics or semantics.
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