Children's interpretations of general quantifiers, specific quantifiers and generics

Susan A. Gelman, Sarah Jane Leslie, Alexandra M. Was, Christina M. Koch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations

Abstract

Recently, several scholars have hypothesised that generics are a default mode of generalisation, and thus that young children may at first treat quantifiers as if they were generic in meaning. To address this issue, the present experiment provides the first in-depth, controlled examination of the interpretation of generics compared to both general quantifiers (‘all Xs’, ‘some Xs’) and specific quantifiers (‘all of these Xs’, ‘some of these Xs’). We provided children (3 and 5 years) and adults with explicit frequency information regarding properties of novel categories, to chart when ‘some’, ‘all’ and generics are deemed appropriate. The data reveal three main findings. First, even 3-year-olds distinguish generics from quantifiers. Second, when children make errors, they tend to be in the direction of treating quantifiers like generics. Third, children were more accurate when interpreting specific versus general quantifiers. We interpret these data as providing evidence for the position that generics are a default mode of generalisation, especially when reasoning about kinds.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)448-461
Number of pages14
JournalLanguage, Cognition and Neuroscience
Volume30
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 21 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language

Keywords

  • children
  • generics
  • quantifiers

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of 'Children's interpretations of general quantifiers, specific quantifiers and generics'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this