The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Experimentalist meeting 10/18 - Filipe Hisao Kobayashi and Sherry Yong Chen (MIT)

Speaker: Filipe Hisao Kobayashi and Sherry Yong Chen (MIT)

Title: Comprehending and: Development Path of English Conjunction in Child Language

Time: Friday, October 18th, 2pm – 3pm

Location: 32-D461


And presents a challenging case for language learning because of its abstract meaning and cross-categorial flexibility. Nevertheless, previous studies report that even 2-year-olds use and productively in various syntactic environments (Sentence-and, VP-and, & NP-and), leaving open the possibility that and is acquired as an intrinsically cross-categorial operator. 

In this on-going project, we exploits scope interaction with quantifiers to distinguish S-and and NP-and:

(1) Somebody has a pineapple and somebody has a donut. (adult: and > somebody)

(2) Somebody has a pineapple and a donut. (adult: somebody > and)

Building on a recent study by Koring et al, we used an act-out paradigm to test children’s comprehension of sentences like (1) and (2). We present preliminary results suggesting that (i) children as young as 3-years-old have adult-like understanding of S-and, but their performance on NP-and is less adult-like; (ii) For NP-and specifically, children’s performance differs in the adult-true vs adult-false scenarios; (iii) there is no clear improvement for both ands from 3-year-olds to 5-year-olds. The difference between our results and Koring et al’s results will be discussed.