Children’s knowledge of indefinite and definite reference

Sims, Ceri M. (1990) Children’s knowledge of indefinite and definite reference. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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After reviewing previous theoretical and empirical investigations, the decision is made that an understanding of both "Familiarity' and 'Specificity' must be necessary for a full appreciation of indefiniteness/definiteness. Moreover, it is argued that knowledge of 'Specificity’ requires an ability to co-ordinate and integrate a number of linguistic and non-linguistic factors appropriately and for this reason, it is suggested that young children’s knowledge of indefinite/definite reference is incomplete.16 experiments are reported, most of which were designed to investigate children's knowledge of 'Familiarity' and 'Specificity' for indefinite/definite reference. Other areas of investigation include children’s ability to use both linguistic and non-linguistic factors in their understanding of definite reference and the way in which older children and adults use these factors for anaphoric reference. The results showed that whilst children from 3 ½ years of age are sensitive to the perceptual information given to listeners and will use their general knowledge to define ‘Familiarity’; they do not appreciate the need to consider the relative status of a referent in their choice of expression. It seems that young children will only consider 'Specificity' when the relative status and/or the identifying features of a referent are salient to them. The failure of the young child to appreciate the necessity of 'Specificity' for indefinite/definite reference may be explained as due to a failure to consider more than one possible interpretation of reference. By contrast, from about 8 years of age, children appear to be integrating contextual information about the number of available referents with their knowledge of linguistic constraints on reference. A model of the processing of definite anaphoric reference in children is proposed based on the 'weak' interactionist view of the effects of informational context on choice of definite construction

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Depositing User: RED Unit Admin
Date Deposited: 08 Apr 2021 06:55
Last Modified: 08 Apr 2021 06:55

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