Children's Developing Intuitions About the Truth Conditions and Implications of Novel Generics Versus Quantified Statements

Cognitive Science 39 (4):711-738 (2015)
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Generic statements express generalizations about categories and present a unique semantic profile that is distinct from quantified statements. This paper reports two studies examining the development of children's intuitions about the semantics of generics and how they differ from statements quantified by all, most, and some. Results reveal that, like adults, preschoolers recognize that generics have flexible truth conditions and are capable of representing a wide range of prevalence levels; and interpret novel generics as having near-universal prevalence implications. Results further show that by age 4, children are beginning to differentiate the meaning of generics and quantified statements; however, even 7- to 11-year-olds are not adultlike in their intuitions about the meaning of most-quantified statements. Overall, these studies suggest that by preschool, children interpret generics in much the same way that adults do; however, mastery of the semantics of quantified statements follows a more protracted course



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Author's Profile

Susan Gelman
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

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Generalized quantifiers and natural language.John Barwise & Robin Cooper - 1981 - Linguistics and Philosophy 4 (2):159--219.
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Generalized Quantifiers and Natural Language.Jon Barwise - 1980 - Linguistics and Philosophy 4:159.
Generics: Cognition and acquisition.Sarah-Jane Leslie - 2008 - Philosophical Review 117 (1):1-47.

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