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Making generic inferences from generic expressions among Korean 3-year-olds

  • THE KOREAN JOURNAL OF DEVELOPMENTAL PSYCHOLOGY
  • 2014, 27(1), pp.179-196
  • Publisher : The Korean Society For Developmental Psychology
  • Research Area : Social Science > Psychological Science

방지은 1 Youngon Choi 2

1중앙대학교 심리학과
2중앙대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

Generic expressions (e.g., “Birds have wings”) describe different general properties and help children acquire knowledge of a given category. Although prior studies have suggested that generic inferences become more sophisticated around 4 years of age, no studies have tested younger age groups, and the findings have largely been limited to children in English-speaking communities. The present study examined Korean-speaking 3-year-olds’ abilities to make inferences based on generic expressions. First, we elicited and analyzed Korean-speaking adults’ utterances that described general properties of an animal category, and found that the most widely utilized generic noun phrases (NPs) of Korean were bare singulars, with the topic marker eun/nun accompanying these NPs. We then presented Korean 3-year-olds with generic expressions about properties of novel animals using these morpho-syntactic features, and observed the extent to which they were willing to extend the property to a novel instance of the given category. Specifically, we examined whether 3-year-olds can make generic inferences regardless of the strength of evidence (e.g., number of exemplars), or when an exception was introduced. We found that 3-year-olds can make generic inferences regardless of evidence strength, and distinguish genericity from nongenericity despite the presence of an exception. The findings suggest that sophisticated abilities to make generic inferences are present as early as 3 years old, and the development of inferential abilities is universal rather than language- or culture-specific.

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