Linguistic input overrides conceptual biases: When goals don't matter

Abstract

Previous research has found support for a cognitive goal bias, which favors the linguistic and non-linguistic encoding of goals of motion over sources. The present corpus-based study explores the effects of goal bias during children's early naturalistic productions of come- and go-predicates. Lexically, come presupposes a goal, while go presupposes a source. This difference has been shown to lead adult speakers to inhibit goal-encoding for come (Gricean maxim of quantity). Young children, notoriously bad at handling deictic and pragmatic inference, could either mirror these patterns in the input or rely on the general cognitive goal bias during path-mapping. Results of two regression analyses suggest that (a) go exhibits a stronger goal bias than come for children and adults, and (b) children persist in inhibiting goals for come at rates similar to adults throughout their early linguistic development. Thus, linguistic input can trump domain-general conceptual biases in early lexical acquisition.


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