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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Learnability and constraints on the semantics of clause-embedding predicates


Responsive predicates are clause-embedding predicates like English 'know' and 'guess' that can take both declarative and interrogative clausal complements. The meanings of responsive predicates when they take a declarative complement and when they take an interrogative complement are hypothesized to be constrained in systematic ways across languages, suggesting that these constraints represent semantic universals. We report an artificial language learning experiment showing that one of these proposed constraints is indeed reflected in the inferences participants make while learning a novel responsive predicate. Our results add support to a growing body of evidence linking semantic universals to learning.

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