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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2016 Aug 16;113(33):9244-9. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1601341113. Epub 2016 Aug 1.

Cross-linguistic patterns in the acquisition of quantifiers.

Author information

1
Department of Theoretical and Applied Linguistics, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB3 9DA, United Kingdom; nk248@cam.ac.uk.
2
Department of Linguistics and English Language, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh EH8 9AD, United Kingdom;
3
Department of Linguistics and Basque Studies, University of the Basque Country, ES-01006 Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain;
4
Department of Catalan Philology, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, 08913 Bellaterra, Spain;
5
Department of Speech and Language Pathology, University of Zagreb, 10000 Zagreb, Croatia;
6
Department of English Studies, University of Cyprus, 1678 Nicosia, Cyprus;
7
Independent researcher;
8
Center for Developmental and Applied Psychological Science, Aalborg University, DK 9220 Aalborg East, Denmark;
9
Center for Language and Cognition Groningen, University of Groningen, 9700 AS Groningen, The Netherlands;
10
Center for Language and Cognition Groningen, University of Groningen, 9700 AS Groningen, The Netherlands; Department of Psychology, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN 46556;
11
Amsterdam Center for Language and Communication, University of Amsterdam, 1012 VT Amsterdam, The Netherlands;
12
Hertfordshire Community National Health System Trust, Welwyn Garden City AL7 1BW, United Kingdom;
13
Institute of Estonian and General Linguistics, University of Tartu, Tartu 50090, Estonia;
14
Faculty of Humanities/Logopedics, University of Oulu, 90014 Oulu, Finland;
15
Laboratoire sur le Langage, le Cerveau, et la Cognition, CNRS-Université de Lyon, 69675 Bron Cedex, France;
16
Department of English Philology, Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University, 0179 Tbilisi, Georgia;
17
Centre for General Linguistics, D-10117 Berlin, Germany;
18
Institute of Education, University of Leipzig, D-04109 Leipzig, Germany;
19
Department of Linguistics, University of Athens, 15784 Ilissia, Greece;
20
Department of English Literature and Linguistics, Bar Ilan University, Ramat-Gan 52900, Israel;
21
Department of Psychology, University of Milano-Bicocca, 20126 Milan, Italy;
22
College of Law, Nihon University, Tokyo 101-8375, Japan;
23
Training Center for Foreign Languages and Diction, Tokyo University of the Arts, 110-8714 Tokyo, Japan;
24
Centre for Applied English Studies, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong;
25
Department of Second Language Acquisition, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742;
26
Faculty of Humanities, Vytautas Magnus University, LT-44244 Kaunas, Lithuania;
27
Department of Communication Therapy, University of Malta, Msida MSD 2080, Malta;
28
Department of Psychology, HELP University, 50490 KL, Malaysia;
29
Bergen Cognition and Learning Group, University of Bergen, 5009 Bergen, Norway;
30
Faculty of Educational Sciences, University of Oslo, 0318 Oslo, Norway;
31
Faculty of Psychology, University of Warsaw, 00-183 Warsaw, Poland;
32
Institute of International Relations, Herzen State Pedagogical University of Russia, 191186 St. Petersburg, Russia;
33
Laboratory for Experimental Psychology, University of Belgrade, Belgrade 11000, Serbia;
34
Institute of Slovak Studies, General Linguistics and Media Studies, Presov University, 080 01 Presov, Slovakia;
35
Department of Speech Therapy, Comenius University, 818 06 Bratislava 16, Slovakia;
36
Department of Psychology, Koç University, 34450 Istanbul, Turkey;
37
International Islamic University/National University of Modern Languages, Islamabad 44000, Pakistan;
38
Department of Linguistics and Translation, City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong SAR;
39
National Center for University Entrance Examinations, Tokyo 153-8501, Japan;
40
Department of Psychology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138.

Abstract

Learners of most languages are faced with the task of acquiring words to talk about number and quantity. Much is known about the order of acquisition of number words as well as the cognitive and perceptual systems and cultural practices that shape it. Substantially less is known about the acquisition of quantifiers. Here, we consider the extent to which systems and practices that support number word acquisition can be applied to quantifier acquisition and conclude that the two domains are largely distinct in this respect. Consequently, we hypothesize that the acquisition of quantifiers is constrained by a set of factors related to each quantifier's specific meaning. We investigate competence with the expressions for "all," "none," "some," "some…not," and "most" in 31 languages, representing 11 language types, by testing 768 5-y-old children and 536 adults. We found a cross-linguistically similar order of acquisition of quantifiers, explicable in terms of four factors relating to their meaning and use. In addition, exploratory analyses reveal that language- and learner-specific factors, such as negative concord and gender, are significant predictors of variation.

KEYWORDS:

language acquisition; pragmatics; quantifiers; semantics; universals

PMID:
27482119
PMCID:
PMC4995931
DOI:
10.1073/pnas.1601341113
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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