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Bookmark and Share Paper 2311

Evidentiality vs. Certainty: Do Children Trust Their Minds More Than Their Eyes?
Liane Jeschull and Tom Roeper
107-115 (complete paper or proceedings contents)


This study investigates whether English-speaking children differentiate the evidential marker 'looks like' and the certainty marker 'probably.' An analysis of naturalistic data suggests that 3- to 5-year olds indeed produce and discriminate the two expressions. A controlled comprehension experiment tested whether children also correctly understand their semantics. The experiment used contexts in which 'looks like' and 'probably' would lead to opposite answers, where visual evidence suggests something that is impossible. While adults clearly understand 'looks like' evidentially and 'probably' as a certainty marker, 4- and 5-year old children likewise prefer 'probably' as a certainty marker, yet allow 'looks like' as a marker of both evidentiality and certainty. These data support the claim that sentences with evidential markers carry a pragmatic inference about the speaker's degree of certainty, but never the reverse (Davis, Potts, and Speas 2007).

Published in

Proceedings of the 3rd Conference on Generative Approaches to Language Acquisition North America (GALANA 2008)
edited by Jean Crawford, Koichi Otaki, and Masahiko Takahashi
Table of contents
Printed edition: $320.00