Can Language Acquisition Give Children a Point of View?

Jill C. de VilHers

in Why Language Matters for Theory of Mind

Published in print April 2005 | ISBN: 9780195159912
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199847150 | DOI:
Can Language Acquisition Give Children a Point of View?

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This chapter presents the most recent version of the linguistic determination theory, which posits that false-belief understanding crucially depends on mastery of the syntax of complementation. However, this syntactic development does not apply to all object complements, that is, it does not hold for desire (want + infinitive) in English. Nor does it apply to all tensed object complements (that + finite verb). The chapter states that there is a Point-of-View (POV) marker on the complement clause, for belief and communication verbs, that is specified by the verb itself. It argues that desire verbs (for example, want) and belief verbs (for example, think) develop along radically different trajectories. The chapter looks more closely at the path of linguistic development for complements. This serves two purposes: it details the mechanism and reveals why the problem is a deep and central one in language acquisition. This exposition aims to make clear why it is not so easy to separate syntax from semantics and why linguists find it necessary to invoke underlying structures instead of surface structures.

Keywords: linguistic determinism; false-belief understanding; syntax; complementation; desire; belief; verbs; object complements; language acquisition; semantics

Chapter.  13528 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Cognitive Psychology

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