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date: 21 August 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Generic expressions refer to species or kinds of objects, rather than individuals. As generics are encoded in various forms that also have other meanings, and differ across languages, children need to learn which morphosyntactic markers are compatible with generic interpretations. The evidence suggests that children do not need to actively learn generic meanings, but rather, they need to learn to restrict generic interpretations to specific forms of the target grammar. In spontaneous speech children use generic expressions appropriately, early and robustly. In comprehension, while initially overgeneralizing generic interpretations beyond target forms, children also demonstrate that they can exploit the complex relationships between sentence structure and generic meanings; and can integrate the relevant pragmatic and grammatical cues in understanding generic expressions.

Keywords: generics, reference to kinds, individual-level, stage-level, quantifiers, determiners, NPs, mapping problem

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