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More than one path to pragmatics? Insights from children's grasp of implicit, figurative and ironical meaning

Pouscoulous, N; (2023) More than one path to pragmatics? Insights from children's grasp of implicit, figurative and ironical meaning. Cognition , 240 , Article 105531. 10.1016/j.cognition.2023.105531.

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Abstract

Human communication requires impressive inferential abilities and mind-reading skills. To learn how to speak and become competent communicators children need both. The development of pragmatic abilities presents us with a puzzle. On the one hand, much evidence suggests pragmatics play a grounding role in early communication and language acquisition. On the other, preschoolers find linguistic pragmatic inferences such as implicatures, metaphor and irony difficult to grasp. Apperly and Butterfill (2009) maintain that there are two separate systems for belief reasoning: a simpler one and a more sophisticated one that develops later. Along this line of reasoning we might also expect there to be two separate kinds of pragmatic abilities: an early set using (among other things) the simpler Theory of Mind system, and a more sophisticated one appearing later in childhood and using full-blown Theory of Mind. I will argue there is no need to divide pragmatic abilities in such a way to bridge the gap between the pragmatic inferential skills found in toddlers and the difficulties observed in preschoolers. Evidence from the past two decades indicates that phenomena such as implicatures and metaphor (but not irony) can be understood earlier than previously established. Additionally, children's apparent struggle with specific pragmatic inferences might be better explained by factors independent from pragmatic competence, but which interact with it.

Type: Article
Title: More than one path to pragmatics? Insights from children's grasp of implicit, figurative and ironical meaning
Location: Netherlands
DOI: 10.1016/j.cognition.2023.105531
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cognition.2023.105531
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.
Keywords: Developmental pragmatics, Implicature, Metaphor, Irony, Theory of mind
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Linguistics
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10180260
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