The grammatical source of missing epistemic meanings for modal verbs in child BCS
Dunja Veselinovic, Ailís Cournane
January 2018

Children use functional modals (e.g., must, have to) with root meanings (e.g., abilities, obligations) by age 2, but with epistemic meanings (i.e. knowledge-based inferences) only by age 3 (Stephany 1979; Papafragou 1998; i.a.). What can explain this Epistemic Gap (EG)? We present a corpus study of eight Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian (BCS) children and their maternal input. The BCS children’s EG lasts until at least age 4, a year longer than observed for English children. We show that the EG can be accounted for by language-specific syntactic differences between epistemic and root representations of modal verbs (Cournane 2015), rather than conceptual or input-frequency differences. We argue that epistemic use of modal verbs relies on TP-embedding in English, but on later CP-embedding in BCS (Veselinović 2017).
Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/005040
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: Formal Approaches to Slavic Linguistics 26. Michigan Slavic Publications.
keywords: modality, modal verbs, acquisition, serbo-croatian, bcs, theory of mind, embedding, semantics, syntax
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