Origins of knowledge and the language-cognition interface
Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences &
Department of Linguistics and Cognitive Science
University of Delaware
How is language related to cognition? This talk addresses this question by investigating evidentiality (the linguistic encoding of information source) and its relation to children’s and adults’ reasoning about the origins of knowledge. It has been known for some time that the ability to monitor knowledge sources develops slowly in children and leads to characteristic patterns of errors even in adults. Here we ask whether speaking a language that systematically (grammatically) marks evidential contrasts might affect source monitoring accuracy in both children and adults. In a series of experiments, we show that children’s ability to reason about sources of information proceeds along similar lines in diverse language-learning populations and is not tied to the acquisition of the linguistic markers of evidentiality in the exposure language. We further show that evidentiality in language is independent of source-monitoring performance in adults. Together, these studies reveal commonalities in reasoning about sources of information across members of different linguistic communities and bear on theories about the relation between linguistic-semantic and conceptual representations.