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Focusing in statement interpretation

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The present study reports on the processing strategies used by young children (7 and 9) in a task of statement interpretation. The statements were composed of two assertions, presented either in parataxis (“Peter sees, he has a marble”) or in a modal structure (“Peter sees that he has a marble”); variations on the form of the verb (affirmative or negative) and on the subjects of the two predicates (same subject or different subjects) were also taken into account. Through the study of the processing order of the two assertions, the purpose was to bring out the phenomena of semantic focusing on one or the other piece of information. The task used was a construction task: The child had to enact the statements with the help of various elements corresponding to the different assertions. Main results showed that, when the information was presented in parataxis, it was generally processed in the enunciation order. On the other hand, in the modal form the focusing was clear: It bore on the dictum (“to have a marble”) in the affirmative form, and on the modal verb (“Peter does not see...”) when it was negative. The interpretation of the various focusing processes are discussed.

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Bassano, D. Focusing in statement interpretation. J Psycholinguist Res 15, 345–367 (1986). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01067678

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  • Young Child
  • Cognitive Psychology
  • Modal Structure
  • Modal Form
  • Study Report