PhD ceremony: Mr. E.J. Smits, 13.15 uur, Academiegebouw, Broerstraat 5, Groningen
Thesis: Acquiring quantification. How children use semantics and pragmatics to constrain meaning
Promotor(s): prof. J. Hoeksema
The results presented in this thesis underline that more insight can be gained into the course of language development when multiple factors that are relevant to assigning meaning to linguistic structures are taken into account. For quantified sentences, this means that both syntax, semantics and pragmatics have to be taken into account. Instead of focusing on either the syntactic, semantic or pragmatic constraints that are at play when one (adult or child) is asked to interpret a sentence, a more dynamic approach is needed that incorporates all factors that determine this interpretation. In this thesis, I took such an approach by using the framework of (Centering) Optimality Theory, following recent work by Hendriks and De Hoop (2001) and Beaver (2004). Moreover, by taking the alternative view on compositionality of De Hoop et al. (2007) as a starting point, the present thesis explored an alternative approach to the acquisition of quantification. I showed that acquiring quantification is neither a case of ‘lacking’ certain grammatical rules nor a case of just the ‘wrong’ experimental setup that elicits a non-target-like answer. Instead, I presented experimental data showing that the acquisition of quantification is a matter of establishing a target-like equilibrium between syntax, semantics and pragmatics.
Chair of Frisian Language and Literature receives prestigious European grant for research on theatre culture in Friesland
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