Lyn Tieu, Manuel Križ, & Emmanuel Chemla. 2015. “Children's acquisition of homogeneity in plural definite descriptions.”

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Experimental materials:

Adult data from Experiment 1 in .tsv format

Child data from Experiment 1 in .csv format

Adult data from Experiment 2 in .tsv format

Child data from Experiment 2 in .csv format

R script for data analysis

Abstract: Plural definite descriptions give rise to homogeneity effects: the positive The trucks are blue and the negative The trucks aren't blue are neither true nor false when some of the trucks are blue and some are not, i.e. when the group of trucks is not homogeneous with respect to the property of being blue (Löbner 1987; Schwarzschild 1994, among others; for experimental evidence of this truth value gap, see Križ & Chemla 2015). A recent account of homogeneity posits that definite plurals have a literal existential meaning that can be strengthened to the universal meaning through a scalar implicature (Magri 2014). In this study, we investigated preschool-aged children's comprehension of plural definite descriptions of non-homogeneous contexts. We conducted two experiments with 4- and 5-year-old French-speaking children, one using a standard Truth Value Judgment Task (Crain & Thornton 1998) and one using a ternary judgment task (Katsos & Bishop 2011). The experiments revealed three distinct subgroups of children who differed in how they interpreted plural definite descriptions and standard cases of scalar implicatures. One group of children both interpreted the definite plurals existentially and failed to compute scalar implicatures. Another group of children accessed homogeneous interpretations and computed implicatures. A smaller subgroup of children appeared to access homogeneous interpretations without computing implicatures. We discuss the implications of our findings for theories of homogeneity, and in particular for the implicature theory of homogeneity, proposing that such a theory has a role to play in children's development of homogeneity.

Keywords: homogeneity; acquisition; plurality; definite descriptions; scalar implicatures