Collective-Distributive Interpretations in Bilingual Spanish-English-Speaking Children


  • Anne Lingwall Odio University of Cincinnati
  • John Grinstead


Developmental semantic research in child Italian, Spanish, and English has shown that children’s knowledge of distributive interpretations does not appear adult-like until 10 or 11 years of age. Further, children’s knowledge of distributive interpretations predicts their knowledge of collective interpretations. Lexical development, in these studies, predicts both their distributive and collective interpretations, while development of the inhibition component of executive function predicts children’s collective interpretations, but not their distributive interpretations. In this project, we test Spanish distributive and collective interpretations in a sample of bilingual Spanish-English-speaking 1st graders and an age- matched sample of monolingual Spanish-speaking children in Mexico. We find that the bilingual children have significantly greater inhibition scores than the monolingual children. The monolingual children, in contrast, have greater lexical scores than the bilinguals. Further results show that the monolinguals have more adult-like distributive and collective interpretations than do the bilinguals and that lexical scores are predictive of distributive- collective interpretations in the combined sample, while inhibition is not. We conclude that lexicon plays a greater role in collective implicature interpretations than does inhibition.


distributive, collective, scalar implicature, bilingual, pragmatics, semantics


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