Learning what must and can must and can mean

Van Dooren, A., Dieuleveut, A., Cournane, A., & Hacquard, V. (2017). Learning what must and can must and can mean. In A. Cremers, T. Van Gessel, & F. Roelofsen (Eds.), Proceedings of the 21st Amsterdam Colloquium (pp. 225-234). Amsterdam: ILLC.
This corpus study investigates how children figure out that functional modals
like must can express various flavors of modality. We examine how modality is
expressed in speech to and by children, and find that the way speakers use
modals may obscure their polysemy. Yet, children eventually figure it out. Our
results suggest that some do before age 3. We show that while root and
epistemic flavors are not equally well-represented in the input, there are robust
correlations between flavor and aspect, which learners could exploit to discover
modal polysemy.
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