Our study evaluated whether listeners can use spatial deixis (e.g., this, that) to predict a speaker’s likely referent. Adults and 5-year-olds viewed scenes while listening to deictic sentences (e.g., Look at that beautiful baby) and neutral sentences (e.g., Look at the beautiful baby). We found that both adults and children used deixis to predict the plurality of the referent, but only adults used deixis to predict the proximity of the referent (e.g., using this to anticipate a referents proximal to the speaker). In sum, our findings reveal specific developmental changes in how prediction occurs during language processing.
Looking forward to next year!