Differences between Spanish monolingual and Spanish-English bilingual children in their calculation of entailment-based scalar implicatures

Kristen Syrett, Anne Lingwall, Silvia Perez-Cortes, Jennifer Austin, Liliana Sánchez, Hannah Baker, Christina Germak, Anthony Arias-Amaya

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


In this paper, we extend investigations of the possible effects of cross-linguistic influence at the pragmatics-syntax interface (Hulk & Müller 2000; Müller & Hulk 2001; Serratrice, Sorace & Paoli 2004), by presenting two experiments designed to probe how Spanish monolingual and Spanish-English bilingual preschool-age children approach the ‘some, but not all’ scalar implicature (SI) associated with algunos (‘some’). We compare algunos and unos (also a ‘some’ indefinite, but one that is not context-linked and does not induce an SI), and algunos and todos (the universal quantifier ‘every/all’). The performance of the children is compared to fluent adult Spanish heritage speakers. Experiment 1 is a variation of Noveck’s (2001) statement evaluation task, also replicated by Guasti et al. (2005). Experiment 2 is a forced-choice picture selection task. Results demonstrate that adults were the only group to consistently calculate the SI associated with algunos – a finding that was expected to some extent, given that our tasks were stripped of the contextual support that could benefit children’s pragmatic reasoning. While bilingual and monolingual children displayed comparable performance across tasks, bilinguals in Experiment 2 appeared to experience difficulty with judgments related to todos – a pattern we attribute (in light of independent findings) to the cognitive overload in the task, not the lexical entry of this quantifier. We conclude that young monolingual and bilingual children confront the same challenges when called upon to deploy pragmatic skills in a discourse context.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number31
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


  • Bilinguals
  • Language acquisition
  • Quantification
  • Quantifiers


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