Generic sentences (e.g., "Birds lay eggs") convey generalizations about entire categories and may thus be an important source of knowledge for children. However, these sentences cannot be identified by a simple rule, requiring instead the integration of multiple cues. The present studies focused on 3- to 5-year-olds' (N=91) use of morphosyntactic cues-in particular, on whether children can (a) interpret indefinite singular noun phrases (e.g., "a strawberry") as generic and (b) use a verb's tense and aspect (e.g., "A bat sleeps/slept/is sleeping upside down") to determine whether its subject noun phrase is generic. Children demonstrated sensitivity to both cues. Thus, solving the in-principle problem of identifying generics may not be beyond the reach of young children's comprehension skills.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
- Developmental and Educational Psychology