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Title: Children's knowledge of indefinite and definite reference
Author: Sims, Kerry M.
ISNI:       0000 0001 3413 8495
Awarding Body: Durham University
Current Institution: Durham University
Date of Award: 1990
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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.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Psychology