The acquisition of 'bridging' tested in a coloring task
Jasmijn Bosch
(University of Amsterdam)
Saturday (April 22nd), 14:15-15:15 (Poster presentation round)
Lipsius Hall

'Bridging' allows for the use of a definite referent that has not been previously introduced in the discourse, because both speaker and hearer know it is connected to a previously mentioned referent. Consider for example the following sentence: ‘I went to a party last night. The music was good.’ (Asher & Lascarides 1999). Avrutin and Coopmans (2000) demonstrated that four-year-olds can implement their knowledge of bridging inferences in a truth-value judgment task relatively well, while three-year-olds performed at chance in a mismatch-condition. They argue that young children have difficulties determining the appropriate source of reference when both linguistic and visual information come into play, as it overloads limited processing resources. The present study investigated the possibility that poor performance was due to task-specific properties rather than to the complexity of integrating linguistic and non-linguistic information. In order to do so, a new experimental method called the Coloring Book task (Pinto & Zuckerman, 2015) was used. This cognitively simple method requires children to color items in a coloring page, according to given instructions. The results showed that performance on bridging comprehension strongly improved when children were tested using the Coloring Book task as compared to the truth-value judgment task (Avrutin & Coopmans, 2000). In this study Dutch three- and four-year-olds were able to make bridging inferences; four-year-olds performed 95% adult-like and three-year-olds 91%. It is concluded that the Coloring Book task is more sensitive than the truth-value judgment task, and more appropriate for the investigation of language comprehension of young children.