Use of context in question answering by 3-, 4- and 5-year-old children
This study investigates, within the theory of relevance of Sperber & Wilson (1995), how3-, 4-, and 5-year-old children (n = 45) use context when answering questions. The children were required to answer questions that placed differing contextual and processing demands on them, as predicted by the theory. The results indicate that an increasing ability to use complex contextual information was related to age and was reflected in the children's ability to answer questions appropriately. A developmental pattern became evident in terms of how the children assigned referents, enriched semantic underdetermination, and recovered implicatures. It also became evident that even at the age of 5 years 6 months the children were in the process of becoming more skilled at integrating contextually complex inferences. It was further shown how children's selection of the appropriate context, given the focus of the question, depended on how relevance was achieved in that context.