Motivated by the observations in these three subsections, we report three studies which aim to clarify the relevant issues. We investigate (a) whether young children’s acceptance of underinformative utterances in binary judgment tasks is due to tolerance
of pragmatic violations rather than lack of pragmatic competence; and (b) whether there is a significant difference between their behaviour with scalar and non-scalar expressions. To do so, we first administer a binary judgment task (experiment 1), which reproduces the finding that 5- to 6-year-old children do not reject underinformative utterances at the rates that they reject logically false ones, or at the same rates as adults.
In experiment 2 we administer the same task, but instead of a binary scale (‘right’ or ‘wrong’) we give participants selleck products a ternary scale (awarding the fictional character ‘a small’, ‘a big’, or ‘a huge strawberry’). This experiment is the crucial test of our hypothesis on pragmatic tolerance. If children are not sensitive to informativeness, they should give the highest reward for true but underinformative utterances, just as if they were optimal (true and informative). Selleckchem NU7441 However, under our hypothesis, children are sensitive to underinformativeness but also tolerant of this kind of infelicity. In this case, they should give the middle reward for underinformativeness and reserve the lowest reward for false utterances. In experiment 3, we further test pragmatic tolerance by running a sentence-to-picture matching study with the same materials as experiments 1 and 2. In interpreting these studies,
we are conservative about whether participants are basing their responses on sensitivity to informativeness or actual derivation of a quantity implicature. Specifically, we assume that the former holds, as it is a necessary precondition for the latter. triclocarban In the General Discussion we explore ways to disentangle these issues. To permit between-task comparisons we use the same experimental stimuli throughout. This experiment aimed to replicate the typical finding from binary judgment tasks with 5- to 6-year-old children, in which children predominantly accept underinformative utterances. A computer-based utterance-judgment task was constructed by combining clip art pictures and animations with pre-recorded utterances on Microsoft Power Point software. The task was administered by a single experimenter. At the beginning of the experiment, participants are introduced to a fictional character, Mr. Caveman, who walks to the middle of the computer screen and introduces himself (by means of utterances pre-recorded by a male non-native but proficient speaker of English) and asks participants to help him learn English. The experimenter elaborates that Mr.