Conceptual and prosodic cues can help the acquisition of disjunction


Tuesday, August 14, 2018, 12:30pm to 2:00pm


2 Arrow St, Rm 420

Speaker: Masoud Jasbi

Abstract: Ambiguity poses a challenge to children’s acquisition of word meaning. For example, a disjunction such as A or B can be interpreted as inclusive (A or B, or both) or exclusive (A or B, not both). Linguistic studies suggest that the core meaning of “or” is inclusive and that the exclusive interpretation is the result of other (extra-semantic) factors such as pragmatic reasoning. However, research in language acquisition shows that the majority of “or” examples children hear are exclusive, yet children interpret or as inclusive in comprehension tasks. This raises a learning puzzle: how can children quickly learn what they rarely hear? We argue that children can use the conceptual and prosodic cues cues to exclusivity in child-directed speech to learn the interpretation of a disjunction from a few examples.