Cues to comparison classes in child-directed language
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.
Roger Levy and Michael Henry Tessler.
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Understanding the meaning of scalar adjectives like big requires a standard of comparison ("big relative to what"), but that standard is almost never said explicitly. Instead, listeners must infer what comparison class the speaker is assuming using some combination of linguistic cues and the context. It is useful to look at how children come to infer the comparison class because of their limited world knowledge. In order to better understand this question, we undertook a corpus study of children interacting with their caretakers in their home environment. We examined the physical surroundings that the conversations took place in and certain cues in the linguistic cues that caretakers used when communicating with children using the scalar adjective big. Results suggest that speakers prefer different syntactic frames when conveying different types of comparison classes and adjust the syntactic structure of a sentence to support listeners' inferences about the comparison class from the physical surroundings. This work also contributes a set of contextual annotations for utterances containing the word big in the Providence corpus of the CHILDES database.
Thesis: M. Eng., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, May, 2020Cataloged from the official PDF of thesis.Includes bibliographical references (pages 85-86).
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.