Linguistics Circle GSAS Workshop
Valentine Hacquard, University of Maryland
Title: "Attitude problems"
Location: Boylston 103
This talk examines asymmetries in the semantics and pragmatics of attitudes of belief and desire and in their acquisition. Children seem to lack a full understanding of think until their fourth birthday, but show no such difficulties with want. A common explanation for this asymmetry links it to conceptual development. Under this view, children lack the ability to attribute beliefs to themselves and others (theory of mind) until age 4. On the other hand, the concept of desire is held to develop much earlier. Thus, children do not have the same difficulties with verbs reporting desires than with those reporting beliefs. However, several issues cast doubt on this conceptual development hypothesis. This talk explores an alternative, semantic explanation for the asymmetry in children's understanding of think and want, which doesn't rely on a fundamental change in conceptual structure.