The interpretation of logical connectors by monolingual and bilingual children
thesisposted on 2022-03-28, 20:03 authored by Vasfiye Geçkin
This dissertation investigated the scope relations assigned by English-, German- and Turkish-speaking monolingual and bilingual children. Across languages, disjunction is assigned different interpretations in negative sentences and in sentences with the temporal term before. For instance, the English (and German) sentence A did not eat B or C licenses the ‘conjunctive’ interpretation that A did not eat B and did not eat C. On this interpretation, negation takes scope over disjunction (NOT > OR). In adult Turkish, if the disjunction phrase is marked with accusative case, then disjunction takes scope over negation (OR > NEG), yielding the ‘disjunctive’ interpretation that A either did not eat B or did not eat C. Scope relations between disjunction and the temporal term before also differ across languages. In English (and German), the sentence A reached the finish line before B or C requires A to reach the finish line before both B and C. In Turkish, the corresponding sentences are true in this circumstance, and also in other circumstances. Adopting a learnability principle called the Semantic Subset Principle, the experimental hypothesis was that children, across languages, would initially adopt the strongest (subset) interpretation of both kinds of sentences, in order to guarantee language learnability regardless of the scope assignments preferred by adults. These predictions were evaluated in three experiments using the Truth Value Judgment Task, testing monolingual children acquiring German, English, and Turkish, and Turkish-English bilingual children. On the proposed account, both groups of Turkish-speaking children were expected to initially assign interpretations that do not match those of the adults, whereas the interpretations assigned by German- and English-speaking children were expected to match those of adults. As predicted, both monolingual and bilingual children were found to initially assign a strong subset reading to disjunction in all three languages, both when disjunction appeared in the scope of negation and when it appeared in the scope of the temporal term before. This meant that the interpretations assigned by Turkish-speaking children differed from those of adults.