Processing Scalar Implicatures in Mandarin Chinese: Testing the Processing Models

Si Liu, Jianan Liu


This study first adopted a participant-perception test to assess the processing model of scalar implicature in Chinese. Our main aim is to distinguish among the three possible processing mechanisms: the context-driven account, the default account and the standardized account. We designed two experiments to testify these three models mentioned above: one without any context and the other one with upper and lower contexts. In our Experiment 1, we conducted test items without contexts in child and adult groups, whose aim is to test the necessity of context to scalar implicature and thus clearly discern the three models. We found though without context, both children and adults group processed scalar implicature at a medium rate, which was an evidence to deny the context driven account. However, some adults tended to be confused about the experiment purpose when facing testing items totally without context constraints, and the children participants might get help from other developed linguistic ability in their processing, like the improved numeral ability. Thus it would be clear that the context account is unreliable, but it would still be early to tell whether the results support the default account or the standardization. In Experiment 2, we added the context constraints, the upper bound context and the lower bound context. Our final results, the still processing of utterance with SI in lower bound context and a similar reaction time to the scalar implicature processing in both upper and lower bound contexts denied the default account and showed a closer relation to the standardization account. 

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