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Title page for ETD etd-03282010-192849

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Vázquez, Maria Dolores
Author's Email Address m.vazquez@vanderbilt.edu
URN etd-03282010-192849
Title Children's use of pragmatic competence as evidence for the reliability of an information source
Degree Master of Science
Department Psychology
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Daniel T. Levin Committee Member
Megan M. Saylor Committee Member
  • Gricean maxims
  • pragmatics
  • word learning
  • trust
  • language aquisition
Date of Defense 2010-03-22
Availability unrestricted
Two aspects of children’s understanding of Gricean maxims were investigated. First, children’s awareness of adherence to the maxims of quality and relation was tested in two separate conditions. Second, children’s use of evidence from maxim adherence as a cue to the reliability of an information source was investigated. Four- and 6-year-olds observed two conversations. In one conversation a Gricean adherer responded appropriately to questions.

In the other a Gricean non-adherer gave inappropriate responses by violating a Gricean maxim. Children were asked to assess each person’s utterances individually and then to identify which conversational partner (the adherer or the non-adherer) was better at answering questions. Children who correctly responded to all three questions were considered maxim recognizers. All 6-year-olds were maxim recognizers of quality and relation. Four-year-olds only recognized adherence to the maxim of quality. Children were then presented with contrasting information about a series of

word-referent pairs. Each conversational partner endorsed a different object as the referent of a novel name. When asked to select the correct referent, 6-year-olds in both conditions and 4-year-olds in the quality condition chose the object that had been endorsed by the Gricean adherer.These findings indicate that children can, in some circumstances, make judgments about a person’s pragmatic competence by observing them in conversation without directly interacting with them. Furthermore, children can use this information to assess the future reliability of a person as an information source.

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