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But: Do age and working memory influence conventional implicature processing?*



Conventional implicatures are omnipresent in daily life communication but experimental research on this topic is sparse, especially research with children. The aim of this study was to investigate if eight- to twelve-year-old children spontaneously make the conventional implicature induced by but, so, and nevertheless in ‘p but q’ sentences. Additionally, the study aimed to shed light on the cognitive effort required for these inferences by measuring working memory (WM) capacity. Our results show that children do make these inferences to a certain extent, but are sensitive to the content of the arguments. We found a significant effect of sentence type, but did not observe any developmental effect, nor any effect of WM: a higher age or WM capacity does not result in more pragmatic inferences.


Corresponding author

Address for correspondence: Leen Janssens, Tiensestraat 102 ( Postbox 3711, 3000 Leuven, Belgium. tel: 0032 16 325873; fax: 0032 16 326099; e-mail:


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We would like to thank the two schools, ‘De Klimboom’ and ‘GVBS Klavertje 4’, for allowing us to perform our experiment. We would also like to thank Pieter Moors for his help with the analyses. This research was carried out with the financial support of the National Council for Scientific Research – Flanders, Belgium (FWO grant G.0634.09).



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