Universiteit Leiden

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Dutch pre-schoolers’ interpretation of two conditional types: A delayed mapping of conceptual representations into linguistic forms

Thursday 11 April 2019
Matthias de Vrieshof
Matthias de Vrieshof 4
2311 BZ Leiden


In this talk, I discuss the mapping between world conceptualisation and language. The question that I aim to explore here is to what extent our conceptual representations are triggered, formed, and/or facilitated by the language we speak. In order to do that, I particularly look at Dutch pre-schoolers’ interpretation of two types of conditional sentences introduced by the conditional connective als ‘if’, i.e. habitual and deontic conditionals, in which at least the concept of hypotheticality and that of conditionality are involved. Results of a total of 46 Dutch children (20 girls; age range = 3;11-6;00; mean = 4;11) obtained in a prediction mode of a Truth Value Judgement Task strongly suggest the following. First, Dutch pre-schoolers’ interpretation of the above-mentioned two conditional types do not develop with age. Second, at least until the age of six, the concept of hypotheticality is mapped to neither of the two conditional types. As for the concept of conditionality, which seems to be developed for deontic conditionals as early as the age of four, there is little evidence showing the same when it comes to habitual conditionals, at least until the age of six. Given previous findings that Dutch children are already able to produce various als-conditional types in their spontaneous speech before the age of four, results of the current research clearly point to a delayed mapping of conceptual representations into linguistic forms. This gives rise to a question of how the delay can be explained, for which further exploration is definitely needed.

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