Ad-hoc pragmatic implicatures among Shipibo-Konibo children in the Peruvian Amazon

  • Martin Fortier (PSL University)
  • Danielle Kellier orcid logo (University of Pennsylvania)
  • María Fernández-Flecha (Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú)
  • Michael C Frank (Stanford University)


Pragmatic reasoning – the ability to infer the intended meaning of an utterance in context – is one of the core aspects of language comprehension. Yet classic linguistic accounts of pragmatics may not apply as consistently in non-WEIRD (western, educated, industrialized, rich, democratic) contexts. Children’s ability to reason pragmatically increases across childhood in U.S. and European communities. Ad hoc (contextual) implicatures tend to emerge around age four, but this pattern has not been studied cross-culturally. We conducted a study of the development of ad-hoc implicatures in Shipibo-Konibo communities in the Peruvian Amazon – a culture with a holistic orientation that might be expected to lead to a decrease in the felicity of implicatures, inferences which typically lead restrictions on context. While 8–10 year-olds successfully made these implicatures, younger children did not, despite successfully understanding control trials. These findings suggest that ad-hoc implicatures are available interpretations, even in a community with different cultural expectations, but that their development may be more protracted.

Keywords: pragmatics, language development, non-Western populations, Shipibo-Konibo

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Published on
30 Mar 2023
Peer Reviewed