Publication

Are Children’s Overly Distributive Interpretations and Spreading Errors Related?

de Koster, A., Spenader, J. & Hendriks, P., 17-May-2018, BUCLD 42: Proceedings of the 42nd annual Boston University Conference on Language Development. Bertolini, A. B. & Kaplan, M. J. (eds.). Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Press, Vol. 1. p. 413-426 14 p.

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionAcademic

There are two major puzzles in quantification acquisition research: children’s spreading errors and their acceptance of non-distributive DPs, like ‘the’, in distributive contexts.
Musolino (2009) proposes that children's non-adult distributivity interpretations might be related to their spreading errors. He outlines how Geurts’s (2003) weak-strong account of spreading could be extended to explain part of his results, e.g. children’s non-adult-like acceptance rates of the cumulative and distributive interpretation.
Dotlacil (2010), on the other hand, argues that children fail to draw a conversational implicature, which he believes causes the non-adult distributivity interpretations. Both accounts also predict a relationship between adult-like interpretations and working memory capacity.
To examine both accounts and the relationship between adult-like interpretations and working memory, we investigated the two phenomena in the same population of children, also performing a word span memory task.
The results show a large age gap between the disappearance of spreading errors and the emergence of a collective preference. Besides this, we only found a significant effect of memory scores on the non-distributive DPs in distributive contexts. The spreading conditions were found to be unaffected by memory. Both these findings suggest that spreading and distributive interpretations have different origins, and the effect of memory on only the non-distributive DPs in distributive contexts seem to point to the implicature account rather than the weak-strong account.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBUCLD 42
Subtitle of host publicationProceedings of the 42nd annual Boston University Conference on Language Development
EditorsAnne B. Bertolini, Maxwell J. Kaplan
Place of PublicationSomerville, MA
PublisherCascadilla Press
Pages413-426
Number of pages14
Volume1
ISBN (Print) 978-1-57473-086-9, 978-1-57473-186-6
Publication statusPublished - 17-May-2018

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