Incremental Processing of Morphosyntax for Counterfactual Reasoning: An Eye-tracking Study with Turkish-speaking Children and Adults

Aktepe, Semih Can
This study aimed to investigate whether children as young as age four can incrementally use morphosyntactic cues for counterfactual reasoning at adult-like level. Therefore, in this study, we answered (i) when children can reason adult-like using counterfactuals and (ii) whether they can incrementally integrate the morphosyntax of counterfactuals in a language that encodes both the conditional and counterfactual meaning in concatenated verbal suffixes, Turkish. We conducted an eye-tracking experiment using visual world paradigm to answer these questions. Our results showed that children attended the target referent after they heard the verb conjugation of the antecedent in the conditional sentences. This result suggests that children as young as age four can interpret counterfactual conditionals incrementally using counterfactual morphosyntax as adults do. To our knowledge, this is the first piece of evidence showing that the morphosyntax marked on verbs quickly leads to complex inferences such as generating hypothetical alternative worlds for counterfactual reasoning not only in adults but also in very young children.


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Citation Formats
S. C. Aktepe, “Incremental Processing of Morphosyntax for Counterfactual Reasoning: An Eye-tracking Study with Turkish-speaking Children and Adults,” M.A. - Master of Arts, Middle East Technical University, 2022.