Schulze, C., & Tomasello, M. (2015). 18-month-old infants comprehend indirect communicative acts. Cognition 136, 91-98. doi: 10.1016/j.cognition.2014.11.036

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Abstract: From soon after their first birthdays young children are able to make inferences from a communicator’s referential act (e.g., pointing to a container) to her overall social goal for communication (e.g., to inform that a searched-for toy is inside; see Behne, Carpenter, & Tomasello, 2005; Behne, Liszkowski, Carpenter, & Tomasello, 2012). But in such cases the inferential distance between referential act and communicative intention is still fairly close, as both container and searched-for toy lie in the direction of the pointing gesture. In the current study we tested 18- and 26-month-old children in a situation in which referential act and communicative goal were more distant: In the midst of a game, the child needed a certain toy. The experimenter then held up a key (that they knew in common ground could be used to open a container) to the child ostensively. In two control conditions the experimenter either inadvertently moved the key and so drew the child’s attention to it non-ostensively or else held up the key for her own inspection intentionally but non-communicatively. Children of both ages took only the ostensive showing of the key, not the accidental moving or the non-ostensive but intentional inspection of the key, as an indirect request to take the key and open the container to retrieve the toy inside. From soon after they start acquiring language young children thus are able to infer a communicator’s social goal for communication not only from directly-referential acts, but from more indirect communicative acts as well.

Keywords: Relevance inference; Intention-reading; Social understanding; Early communication; Gesture comprehension; Infant cognition

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Grassmann, S., Schulze, C., & Tomasello, M. (2015). Children’s level of word knowledge predicts their exclusion of familiar objects as referents of novel words. Frontiers in Psychology 6, 1200.

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Abstract: When children are learning a novel object label, they tend to exclude as possible referents familiar objects for which they already have a name. In the current study, we wanted to know if children would behave in this same way regardless of how well they knew the name of potential referent objects, specifically, whether they could only comprehend it or they could both comprehend and produce it. Sixty-six monolingual German-speaking 2-, 3-, and 4-year-old children participated in two experimental sessions. In one session the familiar objects were chosen such that their labels were in the children’s productive vocabularies, and in the other session the familiar objects were chosen such that their labels were only in the children’s receptive vocabularies. Results indicated that children at all three ages were more likely to exclude a familiar object as the potential referent of the novel word if they could comprehend and produce its name rather than comprehend its name only. Indeed, level of word knowledge as operationalized in this way was a better predictor than was age. These results are discussed in the context of current theories of word learning by exclusion.

Keywords: mutual exclusivity, principle of contrast, exclusion inference, word learning, word knowledge, production, comprehension, label retrieval

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Spreer, M., Schulze, C., & Glück, Ch. W. (2015). Sprachverständnisleistungen als zentrale Voraussetzung schulischen Lernens. Rezeptive Sprachleistungen im Fokus. In Katrin Liebers, Brunhild Landwehr, Anne Marquardt, & Kezia Schlotter (Eds.), Lernprozessbegleitung und adaptives Lernen in der Grundschule. Forschungsbezogene Beiträge. Jahrbuch Grundschulforschung Band 19 (pp. 169-174). Springer.

Keywords: SLI (Speech Language Impairment); Vocabulary; Language acquisition; Special education; Inclusion; School-aged children

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Glück, C. W., Janke, B., Becker, E., Berg, M., Butz, A., Hatz, H., Mahlstedt, A., Schulze, C., Spreer, M., Teichert, K., & Theisel, A. (2014). Die Ki.SSES-PROLUBA Längsschnittstudie: Entwicklungsstand zur Einschulung von Kindern mit sonderpädagogischem Förderbedarf „Sprache“ bei separierender und integrativer Beschulung. In: Sallat, S.; Spreer, M., & Glück, C. W. (Eds.): Sprache professionell fördern: kompetent, vernetzt, innovativ (402-415). Schulz-Kirchner.

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Keywords: SLI (Speech Language Impairment); Language acquisition; Special education; Inclusion; School-aged children, academic achievements

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Schulze, C., Grassmann, S., & Tomasello, M. (2013). 3-year-old children make relevance inferences in indirect verbal communication. Child Development 84(6), 2079-2093.

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Abstract: Three studies investigated 3-year-old children’s ability to determine a speaker’s communicative intent when the speaker’s overt utterance related to that intent only indirectly. Studies 1 and 2 examined children’s comprehension of indirectly stated requests (e.g., “I find Xs good” can imply, in context, a request for X; N = 32). Study 3 investigated 3- and 4-year-old children’s and adults’ (N = 52) comprehension of the implications of a speaker responding to an offer by mentioning an action’s fulfilled or unfulfilled precondition (e.g., responding to an offer of cereal by stating that we have no milk implies rejection of the cereal). In all studies, 3-year-old children were able to make the relevance inference necessary to integrate utterances meaningfully into the ongoing context.

Keywords: Relevance inference, Preference comprehension, Indirect request; Implicature, Goal comprehension

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Schulze, C. (2013). Relevance inferences in young children: 3-year-olds understand a speaker’s indirectly expressed social intention. In Frank Liedtke & Cornelia Schulze (Eds.), Beyond Words. Content, context, and inference (pp. 109-119). Berlin/Boston: Walter de Gruyter.

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Abstract: Two people talking to each other seem to understand each other effortlessly most of the time. But what’s that mutual comprehension based on? First  of  all,  communication  is  a  special  form  of  cooperative  behavior (Grice 1989; Tomasello 2008). That is, both participants – communicator and recipient – mutually know that the communicator is trying to get messages across in the manner most efficient for mutual comprehension. This in turn licenses the recipient to make an effort understanding the speaker’s meaning.  To  understand  the  communicator  correctly,  the  recipient  quite often has to make inferences that go beyond the superficial meaning communicated by the use of linguistic means – for instance when the communicator tries to convey additional meaning such as implications, emotions, or does not use linguistic means at all (as is the case in pointing). Making inferences is based on the assumption that the communicator produced the communicative behavior cooperatively; that is, the recipient assumes that the communicator had a communicative intention, a social goal (which she tries  to  figure  out)  and  a  referential  intention  (which  gives  her  a  notion what the communicator is communicating about). Therefore,  signalling  and  understanding  intentions  is  at  the  core  of communication.

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Liedtke, F. & Schulze, C. (Eds.). (2013). Beyond Words. Content, context, and inference. Berlin/Boston: Walter de Gruyter.

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Abstract: In pragmatics, it is widely accepted that the overall meaning of an utterance performed as part of a verbal interchange ist underdetermined by the meaning of the sentence uttered. Speaker meaning has to be considered at a complex utterance level combining semantic knowledge and context-driven, pragmatic information as an integrated whole. The focus of this book is on the nature, function, and acquisition of pragmatic inferencing strategies.

Keywords: Beyond the words, pragmatics, semantics, implicature

Manuscripts under review
Schulze, C. Pragmatics. Invited contribution to Wiley-Blackwell’s Encyclopedia of Child and Adolescent Development.

Schulze, C., Große, G., & Spreer, M. Der Erwerb pragmatischer Fähigkeiten und mögliche Störungen. Invited contribution to Metzler Handbuch Pragmatik.

Schulze, C., & Buttelmann, D. Infants update others‘ beliefs based on direct and indirect communicative acts.

Grosse, G., Schulze, C., Tomasello, M., & Katsos, N. Differences and similarities in child-
ren’s acquisition of different implicature types. Glossa.

Manuscripts in preparation
Schulze, C. Endesfelder-Quick, A., Gampe, A., & Daum, M. Understanding indirect verbal communication in monolingual and bilingual preschoolers.

Schulze, C., & Glück, C.W. The receptive vocabulary of typically-developing and speech-language-impaired children during their first years in school. A longitudinal analysis.