Speaker: 14th Sept, Dr. Kristen Syrett

CCR members may well be interested in the forthcoming talk in Psychology:
Speaker: Dr. Kristen Syrett (Rutgers University) 
Date: Thursday 14th September 
Time: 12:30-2pm 
Location: Psychology (Harry Pitt Building) G79. 
Evaluating truth and speaker knowledge when statements aren’t entirely true:
Experimental evidence from children and adults
Kristen Syrett
Rutgers University ØC New Brunswick
While there is robust evidence that young children can assess the truth value of individual propositions, much less is known about how they evaluate conjoined propositions in which only one of the conjuncts is unobjectionably true (either because the other is clearly false, or is not maximally true of a plurality and therefore violates homogeneity). Even less is known about how children take such information to be a reflection of what a speaker knows. In this talk, I will present experimental work from a modified truth value judgment task accompanied by a ternary scale probing what preschoolers and adults know about such linguistic situations. The results demonstrate that children compute truth values of [TӀF] conjunctions as predicted by propositional logic (a false proposition renders the conjunction false, or in some cases, gappy), and further, take such utterances to indicate degraded speaker knowledge. However, children (unlike adults) do not display sensitivity to the presence or absence of definiteness marking in the grammatical subject. I situate these findings against others coming out of my lab and independent research, which reinforce these conclusions. Thus, whereas the rules of propositional logic (a universal aspect of semantics) are engrained early on, and serve as a window into speaker knowledge, the semantic force of certain morphosyntactic features (which vary cross-linguistically) remains to be learned.

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