'But' how do children judge it on a scale?

Leen JanssensKU Leuven, Leuven, Belgium
Annelies Van den BroeckKU Leuven, Leuven, Belgium
Walter SchaekenKU Leuven, Leuven, Belgium

Abstract

This study examined children’s comprehension of the conventional implicature induced by but, combined with so and nevertheless, in ‘p but q’ sentences constructed as distancing-contrastive connections. Based on the Pragmatic Tolerance Hypothesis of Katsos and Bishop (2011), a three-point scale was used as response format. Using a scale instead of a binary judgment task can reveal more insight in which factors are considered most important when processing ‘p but q’ sentences. The results indicated that the content of the p- and q-arguments plays a very important role when children process ‘p but q’ sentences. However, their use of the three-point scale also indicated that they are sensitive to the pragmatic meaning of but, so and nevertheless. These results must be interpreted cautiously since the children seemed to use the middle value on the scale around 30% of the time in each sentence category, which was not in line with our predictions. This might indicate that children experience a general incomprehension with this type of sentences and answer with the middle value on the scale because they simply don’t know the answer.

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