The effects of common knowledge on children's use of reference with peers

Date of Completion

January 1990


Language, Linguistics|Psychology, Developmental




The question addressed in this study is whether four, five and six year old children are egocentric when providing information to a listener who shares information with them when, compared to a listener who does not. The amount of information shared by the listener and the speaker was varied in a story-telling situation which forced the use of anaphoric reference. The number of propositions provided, as well as the correct use of indefinite and definite articles and pronominalization were examined for the two situations. The findings demonstrated that, although the children provided more information to the non-seeing listener, they had difficulty using the correct form to provide that information. These children made errors in providing indefinite and definite articles when there was no shared information, however, it should be noted that the indefinite article was almost always used in its correct form. Pronominalization posed less of a problem with children in all age groups making few errors in all conditions. In addition, children's abilities in the Karmiloff-Smith task, a relative clause task and the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Task suggested that different facets of language are involved in these three tasks when compared to the pragmatic abilities needed in story retelling. Overall, children were found to not only produce some correct anaphoric expressions even at the youngest age group, but were also found to have an understanding that more information is needed by a less knowledgeable listener. However, they had some difficulty with how to provide the appropriate information. ^