UCL Discovery
UCL home » Library Services » Electronic resources » UCL Discovery

Aspects of the Acquisition of Quantification: Experimental Studies of English and Korean Children

Kang, Hye-Kyung; (2000) Aspects of the Acquisition of Quantification: Experimental Studies of English and Korean Children. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

[thumbnail of 10010485.pdf] Text

Download (15MB)


This thesis reports on experimental studies of quantifier spreading in young children's interpretation of sentences with universal quantifiers such as all, every or each, and argues that the phenomenon is explicable in terms of the maturation of both the linguistic system and the cognitive system. On the linguistic side, it is claimed that the phenomenon is influenced by the effect of syntactic detachment, where the subject is typically an island. That is, the experimental results, where young children made significantly higher errors in the interpretation of quantifiers in object position than in subject position, are claimed to be due to the relative ease of detachment of items from the object rather than from the subject. Regarding the categorial status of the quantifier in the children's interpretation, it is argued that children initially treat quantifiers as modifiers, rather than functional heads, focusing on the movement of that quantifier out of its own extended projection to FP. For the pragmatic (cognitive) analysis, the experimental finding that younger children at the ages of 4 and 5 performed significantly better than the older children at the ages of 6 and 7 gives rise to the classic pattern of a U-shaped developmental curve. On the view that pragmatic considerations are mastered late in acquisition, later than syntactic knowledge, it is assumed that the high rate of spreading errors by older children can be attributed to the interference of pragmatic factors, rather than to lack of grammatical knowledge. More specifically, I argue that such pragmatic factors are a function of the central system, where both the visual input, the picture, and the intrinsic linguistic property of quantifiers as focused elements play important roles in the determination of children's conceptual representations, suggesting the need for the central integration of visual and linguistic inputs. From these perspectives, I argue that the phenomenon has to be analysed both linguistically and cognitively. Children need to learn at least three different facts to cope with universal quantification. First, they have to learn two kinds of grammatical fact: (i) the status of the quantifier as a functional head of DP so that it has to be positioned inside DP; and (ii) the Left-Branch Condition, which specifies that movement of an element to the left-branch position is possible only by pied-piping the entire phrase. Once they learn requirement (i), right spreading errors should disappear, and then when they master both requirements (i) and (ii), left spreading errors should disappear. The third strand, which underlies the U-shaped developmental curve, involves the deployment of pragmatic knowledge. At this stage children allow pragmatic considerations to "over-rule" their existing grammatical knowledge, resulting in some confusion and pragmatic short-cut performances which cause the appearance of quantifier spreading. When they finally learn that pragmatics cannot overrule syntactic theory, spreading errors disappear. Children's mastery of quantification is only complete when these three phases of learning are all acquired. From the current experimental results, it seems that this does not happen until after 7 years or so.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Aspects of the Acquisition of Quantification: Experimental Studies of English and Korean Children
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis digitised by ProQuest.
Keywords: Language, literature and linguistics; Universal quantifiers
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10105124
Downloads since deposit
Download activity - last month
Download activity - last 12 months
Downloads by country - last 12 months

Archive Staff Only

View Item View Item