Adult response uniformity distinguishes semantics from pragmatics

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This paper reports data from 17 adult and 141 child Hebrew-speakers from experiments testing knowledge of the semantics and pragmatics of coordination, using a variant of the Truth-Value Judgment Task (Crain &#38; Thornton 1998). Adults showed uniformity in judgments of semantic meaning, the truth-conditions of conjunction (<i>ve</i>/&#8217;and&#8217;, <i>aval</i>/&#8217;but&#8217;) and disjunction (<i>o</i>/&#8217;or&#8217;) and the non truth-conditional contrast associated with <i>aval</i>/&#8217;but&#8217;. By contrast, judgments of the pragmatic meanings, the scalar quantity implicatures associated with the use of disjunction, and the pseudo-scalar quantity implicature associated with the use of <i>aval</i>/&#8217;but&#8217; implicatures, varied. Children from the age of 5 showed uniform adultlike knowledge of semantic, truth-conditional meaning, while the non-truth-conditional semantic and pragmatic meanings were not demonstrated even at the age of 9;6. I argue that it is uniformity which distinguishes semantics from pragmatics for adults. For children, it has been argued that earlier acquisition distinguishes semantics from pragmatics (e.g. Hyams 1996). I argue that the distinction between semantic and pragmatic meanings in age of acquisition is a reflection of the relational complexity of these meanings, for instance as measured by Halford, Wilson &#38; Philllips&#8217; (1998) relational complexity metric, and is not related to their classification as semantic or pragmatic meaning.


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