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Focus particles at syntactic, semantic and pragmatic inferfaces : the acquisition of "only" and "even" in English

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Item Summary

Title: Focus particles at syntactic, semantic and pragmatic inferfaces : the acquisition of "only" and "even" in English
Authors: Kim, So Young
Keywords: English
Issue Date: Aug 2011
Publisher: [Honolulu] : [University of Hawaii at Manoa], [August 2011]
Abstract: The present study aims to investigate how English-speaking children comprehend sentences with a focus particle such as only or even.
Experiments 1 and 2 provided novel results regarding how English-speaking children interpret sentences containing only in terms of scope assignment and pragmatic inferencing. Children were able to employ discourse information to infer contrast information. However, they made errors by adopting a strong object-focused scope analysis regardless of the syntactic position of only (e.g., Only Red Bear bought a balloon or Red Bear bought only a balloon). For direct experimental investigation into a more detailed picture of children's grammatical restrictions on the scope of only, sentences containing only preceding two nouns connected by the preposition about (e.g., Toto bought only a book about Mickey Mouse) or the preposition to (e.g., Toto brought only a book to Mickey Mouse) were employed. Children were more likely to associate only with the second noun (e.g., Mickey Mouse) than with the first noun (e.g., a book). The results from Experiments 1 and 2 indicate that children have adult-like pragmatic inferencing in computing contrast information but make syntactic errors by identifying the last nouns as focus.
Experiments 3 and 4 explored English-speaking children's construal of sentences containing even in terms of pragmatic inferencing, that is, scalar implicature. Overall, the children succeeded in understanding affirmative even sentences (e.g., Even Larry was able to reach the cookie or Bear was able to reach only the vanilla cookie) and negated even sentences (e.g., Even Larry was not able to reach the cookie or Bear was not able to reach only the vanilla cookie) only slightly less than half the time. From a detailed examination of the results, a general picture emerged of two child groups with different capabilities for computing scalar implicature. The first group consistently failed for both sentence types with even; the second group consistently succeeded for both sentence types with even.
Description: Ph.D. University of Hawaii at Manoa 2011.
Includes bibliographical references.
URI/DOI: http://hdl.handle.net/10125/101621
Appears in Collections:Ph.D. - Linguistics



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