3-year-old children make relevance inferences in indirect verbal communication.
Three studies investigated 3-year-old children's ability to determine a speaker's communicative intent when the speaker's overt utterance related to that intent only indirectly. Studies 1 and 2 examined children's comprehension of indirectly stated requests (e.g., "I find Xs good" can imply, in context, a request for X; N = 32). Study 3 investigated 3- and 4-year-old children's and adults' (N = 52) comprehension of the implications of a speaker responding to an offer by mentioning an action's fulfilled or unfulfilled precondition (e.g., responding to an offer of cereal by stating that we have no milk implies rejection of the cereal). In all studies, 3-year-old children were able to make the relevance inference necessary to integrate utterances meaningfully into the ongoing context.
Schulze, C; Grassmann, S; Tomasello, M
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