This study investigates children's comprehension of the subtle pragmatic differences between telicity associated with particle verbs ('particle telicity') (e.g., eat the apple up, drink the coke up) and telicity associated with corresponding transitive simplex verbs of creation and consumption with an incremental theme argument ('object telicity') (e.g., eat the apple, drink the coke). The novel experimental design of the study was able to capture those pragmatic differences, as verified by the adult data. Starting at age four, children show some understanding of the concept of telicity. Yet children as old as six years of age do not treat particle telicity and object telicity in an adult-like manner. Six-year-olds do not always compute the obligatory telicity entailments of particle verbs yet. Nor do they fully understand in which contexts to compute or not to compute the conversational implicature of telicity that transitive simplex verbs carry. Thus, at age four children start to develop an understanding of telicity, but even at age six they do not have an adult-like understanding of the pragmatics of particle telicity and object telicity yet.
Proceedings of the 2nd Conference on Generative Approaches to Language Acquisition North America (GALANA)
edited by Alyona Belikova, Luisa Meroni, and Mari Umeda
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