Abstract: I begin this talk by describing signature experimental pragmatic effects, e.g. reaction-time slowdowns and developmental delays of pragmatic readings of utterances with respect to semantic ones, before turning to work in which it is arguably the case that a word's meaning includes a pragmatic component. For example, I will present recently accepted work (Noveck, Petit, Tian & Turco, JML) that uses a novel paradigm to investigate reaction-times and developmental patterns among French participants as they respond to polar questions. This paradigm becomes pertinent because participants can respond naturally with a Oui or a Non to answer questions about the contents of a presented box (e.g. The candy is in the blue box?) as well as with a third type of French response. That is, when asked a negative question such as The candy is not in the white box? when the candy is indeed in the white box, the appropriate response in European French is Si. This "contrapositive" response felicitously deals with the potential ambiguity of negative questions by a) signaling disagreement between the negative content of the question and the facts while; b) indicating that the question's implicit affirmative is indeed the case (that the candy is indeed in the white box). Through the experiments' outcomes, we argue that the second feature (b) is pragmatic in nature and requires some maturity before it can be carried out. These data compel one to consider seriously the notion that adult uses of individual words can intrinsically depend on pragmatic components.
Ira Noveck is Director of Research at the CNRS, France.
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