16/12/2015 Computer Science Linguistics Philosophy
DOI: 10.1075/TILAR.15 SemanticScholar ID: 63377393 MAG: 2485434843

Introduction: An overview of the acquisition of reference

Publication Summary

Language is a social tool that allows us to speak to others about the world. In doing so we need words that pick out those entities that we want to talk about. Linguistic expressions that identify such entities are known as referential or referring expressions, including proper names (Laura), natural kind terms (water, gold, tiger), indexicals (you, I, she), and definite descriptions (the dog, the smallest positive number). The mechanisms of reference have been the subject of intense speculation, and the debate over descriptive (Frege 1892/1948; Searle, 1958) vs. causal (Kripke, 1972/1980) or hybrid theories of reference (Evans, 1973) is still rife in the semantics literature (Genone & Lombrozo, 2012; Lam, 2010; Marti, 2014). Whatever the theoretical approach to reference, from a developmental perspective the three key questions are the following: What is the trajectory of language learners’ comprehension and production of referential expressions? To what extent, and in which contexts, do children abide by the same linguistic constraints as adults in their referential choices? How do cross-linguistic differences shape the process of referential choice acquisition?

CAER Authors

Avatar Image for Ludovica Serratrice

Prof. Ludovica Serratrice

Reading University - Professor of multilingualism

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