Generic language and judgements about category membership: Can generics highlight properties as central?

Michelle A. Hollander, Susan A. Gelman, Lakshmi Raman
2009 Language and Cognitive Processes  
Many languages distinguish generic utterances (e.g., "Tigers are ferocious") from non-generic utterances (e.g., "Those tigers are ferocious"). Two studies examined how generic language specially links properties and categories. We used a novel-word extension task to ask if 4-to 5year-old children and adults distinguish between generic and specific language, and judge that predicating a property of a depicted novel animal using generic language (e.g., "Bants have stripes"), rather than
more » ... c language (e.g., "This bant has stripes") implies a more kindrelevant connection between category and property. Participants were asked to endorse an extension of the label taught to a novel animal matching the target instance on either overall similarity or the mentioned property. Wording was found to have a significant effect on responses for both age groups. Altogether, the results of these studies suggest that the generic may be a default interpretation for young children, who need to learn the semantics of specific and settheoretic expressions.
doi:10.1080/01690960802223485 pmid:25620828 pmcid:PMC4301437 fatcat:x2foxgtr4bhbtpch43oe7ickde