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The role of perceptual availability and discourse context in young children's question answering*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  26 November 2010

DOROTHÉ SALOMO*
Affiliation:
Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Nijmegen, The Netherlands
EILEEN GRAF
Affiliation:
University of Manchester, Max Planck Child Study Center, Manchester, United Kingdom
ELENA LIEVEN
Affiliation:
University of Manchester, Max Planck Child Study Center, Manchester, United Kingdom and Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany
MICHAEL TOMASELLO
Affiliation:
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany
*
Address for correspondence: Dorothé Salomo, Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, P.O. Box 310, 6500 AH Nijmegen, The Netherlands. e-mail: dorothe.salomo@mpi.nl

Abstract

Three- and four-year-old children were asked predicate-focus questions (‘What's X doing?’) about a scene in which an agent performed an action on a patient. We varied: (i) whether (or not) the preceding discourse context, which established the patient as given information, was available for the questioner; and (ii) whether (or not) the patient was perceptually available to the questioner when she asked the question. The main finding in our study differs from those of previous studies since it suggests that children are sensitive to the perceptual context at an earlier age than they are to previous discourse context if they need to take the questioner's perspective into account. Our finding indicates that, while children are in principle sensitive to both factors, young children rely on perceptual availability when a conflict arises.

Type
Brief Research Report
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2010

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Footnotes

[*]

We thank Angela Loose and Jana Jurkat for their help collecting the data, and Roger Mundry for statistical guidance. We are grateful to Leipzig kindergarten directors and to the children who participated in our study.

References

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