LINGUIST List 15.3332

Tue Nov 30 2004

Diss: Language Acquisition:Leah Gedalyovich: Towards ...

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        1.    leah gedalyovich, Towards an explanation of first language acquisition of Hebrew coordination



Message 1: Towards an explanation of first language acquisition of Hebrew coordination

Date: 30-Nov-2004
From: leah gedalyovich <glh33zahav.net.il>
Subject: Towards an explanation of first language acquisition of Hebrew coordination


Program: Department of Foreign Literatures and Linguistics: Linguistics 
 Dissertation Status: Completed 
 Degree Date: 2004 
 
 Author: Leah Rachel Gedalyovich
 
 Dissertation Title: Towards an explanation of first language acquisition of
 Hebrew coordination 
 
 Linguistic Field(s): Language Acquisition
 
 
 Dissertation Director(s):
 Jeannette Schaeffer
 Nomi Erteschik-Shir
 
 Dissertation Abstract:
 
 This dissertation reports an experimental investigation of Hebrew-speaking
 children's knowledge of truth-conditional (semantic) and
 non-truth-conditional (semantic and pragmatic) properties of coordinated
 sentences such as (1):
 
 (1) yored geshem ve/aval/o ha shemesh zoraxat
 'it's raining and/but/or the sun is shining'
 
 Within a model of language acquisition following from generative grammar, I
 assume the answer to the logical question of language acquisition lies in
 early (if not innate) knowledge of not only grammar (syntax and
 compositional syntax), but also (parts of) pragmatics. The developmental
 question of language acquisition is then answered by arguing that the
 realization of both types of language knowledge may be regulated by general
 cognitive abilities such as the ability to process complex relations.
 
 I consider three different categories of meaning with respect to
 coordination. These are: (semantic) truth-conditional meaning, (semantic)
 conventional non-truth-conditional meaning and (pragmatic) conversational
 implicatures. I first define the relations of the truth conditions of
 coordination (using traditional formal logic), the contrast element of
 aval/but (using the analysis suggested by Winter and Rimon, 1994) and the
 relevant scalar and clausal conversational implicatures (using Gazdar's
 (1979) analysis). Furthermore, I make use of Levinson's (2000) analysis of
 generalized versus particularized covnersational implicatures to
 distinguish between developmental and non-developmental implicature
 phenomena. I then analyze the complexity of each of these relations using
 Halford, Wilson and Phillips' (1998) relational complexity metric.
 Relational complexity is measured in terms of the number of elements which
 must be considered simultaneously in order for the relation to be
 processed. This leads to specific predictions regarding the expected age of
 acquisition of each defined element. The main predictions are:
 
 1) Children will demonstrate knowledge of truth conditions of the
 coordinators by the age of 5 years.
 
 2) Children will not demonstrate knowledge of the contrast element and the
 scalar conversational implicature, even by 9;6 years.
 
 3) Adults will show consistent and uniform responses to tasks involving
 generalized conversational implicatures and inconsistent, non-uniform
 reponses to tasks involving particularized conversational implicatures.
 
 I tested the knowledge of these semantic and pragmatic properties of
 coordinated sentences in 136 mono-lingual Hebrew-speakers (119 children
 aged 2;6 through 9;6 and 17 adults) with 8 judgement tasks involving truth
 or felicity judgements of a puppet's coordinated sentences describing
 pictures. A further task of carrying out instructions was admninistered to
 the youngest participants. The results supported my predicitons. I conclude
 that my evidence supports an answer to the developmental question of
 language acquisition where (at least the investigated) differences between
 child and adult language behaviors result from an immature cognitive
 ability to process complex relations, rather than from underdeveloped
 pragmatics or semantics.
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