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The development of hypothetical reference in the speech of young children*

  • Stan A. Kuczaj (a1) and Mary J. Daly (a1)

The data obtained in two investigations (one a longitudinal/cross-sectional naturalistic study, the other a quasi-experimental study) demonstrate that preschool age children have the capacity for hypothetical reference. However, the data also indicate that this capacity for hypothetical reference operates within certain constraints, particularly early in the preschool years. Specifically, future hypothetical reference is an earlier acquisition than past hypothetical reference; reference to single hypothetical events appears sometime prior to reference to sequences of hypothetical events; and accuracy is better in self-initiated than other-initiated hypothetical reference. The implications of these findings are discussed.

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We would like to thank Becky Englehorn and Meg Mullins for their assistance in collecting and scoring the data reported in Study 2. Address for correspondence: Department of Psychology, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas 75275.

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Journal of Child Language
  • ISSN: 0305-0009
  • EISSN: 1469-7602
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-child-language
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