February 27, 2015

Guest speaker: John Grinstead (Ohio State University)

We are pleased to welcome John Grinstead from the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at Ohio State. His research is centered around language acquisition and language disorders. On Friday, March 6, John will be giving a talk: "Dimensions of developmental semantics and pragmatics." This will take place in 2108 Sidney Smith Hall starting at 3:30 PM. There will be a subsequent reception in the department lounge.

Studies demonstrate, at least on a small scale, that 5 year-old children can access the truth conditional and the pragmatically enriched meaning of existential quantifiers in child English, in spite of confusion arising from methodological differences. Cross-linguistic differences in the comprehension of existentials arise from, for example, the necessary interface with segmental and suprasegmental phonology in English (e.g. sm vs. some vs. SOME), while in Spanish this interface appears to be less critical for making basic distinctions, allowing earlier convergence on the adult system (unos vs. algunos). An additional dimension of existentials, and universals for that matter, is their susceptibility to collective vs. distributive interpretations. While ciascun in adult Italian and cada in adult Spanish are restricted to distributive interpretations, the definite article i in Italian appears unspecified for distributivity vs. collectivity. In contrast, los, in adult Spanish is categorically a collective quantifier. Similarly, the existential unos appears to have a categorically collective interpretation. While child Italian-speakers appear to show a relationship between ciascun and i that is purported to be mediated by pragmatics (Pagliarini et al 2012), child Spanish-speakers show a relationship between cada and los (and also unos) that seems more likely to be a function of lexical semantics, with a strong correlation between cada, los and unos, in both adult and developmental samples.

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