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Detail of contribution

Auteur: Napoleon KATSOS

Co-Auteur(s): COST Action A33 Working Group 5 team

Crosslinguistic patterns in the acquisition of logical words: the case of quantifiers

Abstract/Résumé: While languages may vary widely as regards which concepts they encode, learners of most (if not all) languages will be faced with the task of acquiring a basic vocabulary to talk about universal aspects of human experience, such as space, time and quantity. In this paper we test the hypothesis that the pattern of acquisition of logical vocabulary is not affected by specific properties of the language that is being learned. We focus on quantifying words like ‘all’, ‘none’, ‘some’ and ‘most’ whose meaning and use exhibit cross-linguistic similarities as well as differences. We report an investigation in the acquisition of quantifiers by 592 5-year-old children and 440 adults speaking one of 24 languages. The findings reveal four semantic and pragmatic factors that lead to robust patterns of similarity across languages, as well as lexical factors that lead to language-specific differences. Moreover, a previously undocumented advantage for boys over girls is demonstrated for this domain of language. We explore the implications of this interplay of cross-linguistic and language-specific features in the process of acquisition, as well as the relation between language and cognition.