Interpreting and responding to spoken language: children's recognition and use of a speaker's goal.

Leonard J Abbeduto, J. B. Nuccio, R. al-Mabuk, P. Rotto, F. Maas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

4 Scopus citations


This study had two purposes. The first was to examine age differences in the extent to which children infer and use a speaker's interpersonal goal to understand speech acts. To this end, the subjects responded to Do you have...? requests in a role-playing task. The goal behind such a request is implicit in the speaker's choice of noun phrase. We sought to determine whether children, like adults, use the noun phrase to infer the speaker's goal and thereby decide whether the request is a yes-no question or a directive. The second purpose was to examine age differences in the extent to which children select responses that carry implications appropriate to the speaker's interpersonal goal. To do this, Do you have...? requests containing general category labels were addressed to the children when they possessed all the category exemplars and when they possessed only a few exemplars. A simple yes implies that the listener has nearly all exemplars and, therefore, is inappropriate for the speaker's goal in the latter situation. The subjects were six-, seven-, nine-, and eleven-year-olds and adults, with 12 subjects per age. Only the eleven-year-olds and the adults used the speaker's noun phrase and considered the implications of yes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)677-693
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Child Language
Issue number3
StatePublished - Oct 1992
Externally publishedYes


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Psychology(all)
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language

Cite this