Kate Harrigan · How do children acquire Attitude Verbs? A test case looking at want, think, and hope
The acquisition of attitude verbs has been a topic of interest to researchers in linguistics and psychology for many years. Attitude verbs are a subclass of verbs we use to talk about the contents of other people’s minds. There is a well-documented gap between two particular subclasses of attitude verbs: belief verbs and desire verbs. Many different studies have shown that children acquire the language of desire much sooner than that of belief. This talk will explore different hypotheses, some conceptual and some linguistic, for why we see different trajectories of acquisition in different subclasses of attitude verbs. I will present three experiments. The first two test children’s representation of the desire verb want in a way that is more similar to the way belief verbs (namely, think) have been tested in the past, to rule out the hypothesis that the difficulty with belief verbs is caused by the need to represent multiple conflicting mental states. The third experiment begins to explore possible linguistic differences between subclasses of attitude verbs by looking at a different verb, hope, that shares features with both desire and belief verbs. This line of work will eventually be informative as to which linguistic cues the learner takes to be informative when acquiring attitude verbs.