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Auteur: Frauke BERGER

Co-Auteur(s): Nausicaa POUSCOULOUS, UCL, United Kingdom

2;6-year-olds’ understanding of the presupposition-triggering particles auch (‘too’) and nochmal (‘again’)

Abstract/Résumé: A felicitous utterance containing auch or nochmal presupposes that a contextually salient event has taken place in addition to the one asserted. For instance, ‘Lissy danced, too’ presupposes another person has been dancing; ‘Lissy danced again’ presupposes the same person danced before. Previous studies indicate that children up to school age interpret utterances with ‘too’ poorly (e.g., Bergsma, 2006), despite producing the particle from age 2 on (Nederstigt, 2003). Yet, poor performance on comprehension tasks is likely to be task-related. I, the meaning contribution of ‘too’ or ‘again’ is strictly presuppositional - i.e., background information – and its failure is not likely to be taken into account as an argument for sentence rejection in verification tasks. Thus, conventional tasks may not meet the experimental requirements for testing preschoolers’ understanding of additive particles. Studies using alternative experimental methods (Höhle et al., 2009; Berger & Höhle, 2012; Pouscoulous et al., in prep) indicated that 3-to-4-year-olds already take into account the presuppositions triggered by auch and nochmal. The current study builds up on this argumentation and aims to refine the exact onset age of the two particles’ understanding. An eye-tracking paradigm is used to investigate whether 2;6-year-olds differentiate between utterances containing auch and nochmal. In each trial of the looking-while-listening experiment, children are presented with two toy animals, one of which performs an action (e.g., jumps). After it finishes the other one applauds. Children then hear two subsequent test utterances - either containing auch or nochmal (‘Now, Bingo should jump, too/again.’, ‘Come on, Bingo, jump, too/again.’). To assign the correct referent to the animal name, children must make an inference based on the particle-triggered presuppositions. We expect differing proportions of anticipatory looks to the same character after auch, compared to nochmal, following the offset of the last test sentence. Preliminary results of 18 children are in line with this: in the auch-condition, children expect the clapping character to do the announced action, showing a high amount of looks to the clapping character which differs from chance and from looks in the nochmal-condition. In the nochmal-condition, children expect the action to be performed by the animal who acted before, showing a high amount of looks to that character which differs from chance and from looks in the auch-condition. We will provide fine-grained data analysis also including a breakdown of children’s online processing of the test sentences.