Linguistics Colloquium: Kristen Syrett (Rutgers University)

NOV 09, 2017 | 4:15 PM TO 6:00 PM



The Graduate Center
365 Fifth Avenue




November 09, 2017: 4:15 PM-6:00 PM




Kristen Syrett (Rutgers University) presents: True, False, and Somewhere in Between


While young children typically have no difficulty assessing the truth value of individual propositions, to date we lack knowledge about how they evaluate conjoined propositions in which only one of the conjuncts is unobjectionably true (either because the other is clearly false, or is not maximally true of a plurality and therefore violates homogeneity). Even less is known about how children take such information to be a reflection of what a speaker who delivers such an utterance actually knows. In this talk, I will present collaborative experimental work probing how preschoolers and adults evaluate such linguistic constructions. The results demonstrate that children compute truth values of [T ∧ F] conjunctions as predicted by propositional logic (a false proposition renders the conjunction false, or in some cases, gappy), and further, like adults, take such utterances to indicate degraded speaker knowledge. However, children diverge from adults in their knowledge of how morphosyntactic marking on the grammatical subject affects such statements. I situate these findings against others that reinforce these conclusions. Thus, whereas the rules of propositional logic (a universal aspect of semantics) are engrained early on, and serve as a window into speaker knowledge, the semantic force of certain morphosyntactic features (which vary cross-linguistically) remains to be learned.
All are welcome!  

Refreshments to follow in room 7400