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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Priming implicatures in young children


Children struggle to derive scalar implicatures. Initially this was thought to relate to a lack of cognitive resources required for the computation. More recently however, there has been a shift towards the alternatives (what a speaker could have said but did not). The argument is that children struggle to make the scalar implicature associated with some because they are unaware of its relationship with the stronger alternative all. We present a priming study that investigates this. We show that children’s implicatures can be primed equally by alternatives in quantifier and ad hoc expressions. This suggests that children are aware of the scalar relationship between some and all, even if they choose not to derive the implicature.

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