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Why Language Matters for Theory of Mind$
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Janet Wilde Astington and Jodie A. Baird

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780195159912

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195159912.001.0001

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Can Language Acquisition Give Children a Point of View?

Can Language Acquisition Give Children a Point of View?

(p.186) 10 Can Language Acquisition Give Children a Point of View?
Why Language Matters for Theory of Mind

Jill C. de VilHers

Oxford University Press

This chapter presents the most recent version of the linguistic determination theory, which posits that false-belief understanding crucially depends on mastery of the syntax of complementation. However, this syntactic development does not apply to all object complements, that is, it does not hold for desire (want + infinitive) in English. Nor does it apply to all tensed object complements (that + finite verb). The chapter states that there is a Point-of-View (POV) marker on the complement clause, for belief and communication verbs, that is specified by the verb itself. It argues that desire verbs (for example, want) and belief verbs (for example, think) develop along radically different trajectories. The chapter looks more closely at the path of linguistic development for complements. This serves two purposes: it details the mechanism and reveals why the problem is a deep and central one in language acquisition. This exposition aims to make clear why it is not so easy to separate syntax from semantics and why linguists find it necessary to invoke underlying structures instead of surface structures.

Keywords:   linguistic determinism, false-belief understanding, syntax, complementation, desire, belief, verbs, object complements, language acquisition, semantics

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