Sensitivity to extralinguistic cues to identify generic and non-generic meaning

Daniel Karczewski

Daniel Karczewski - University of Białystok, Poland

Olga Buivolova

Olga Buivolova - National Research University Higher School of Economics, Moscow, Russia


Generic sentences convey generalizations about kinds. In contrast, non-generics express facts about specific individuals or groups of individuals. However, to identify generic meaning, we have to integrate multiple cues. This study tested whether the discrepancy between the noun phrase and the number of objects (extralinguistic cues) present should force a generic interpretation whereas the match between the noun phrase and the number of objects present would give rise to a non-generic interpretation. Results demonstrated that adults are sensitive to the match and the mismatch situations in three out of four conditions tested. The data also indicate the importance of world knowledge cues in construing sentences as generic.


generics, non-generics, extralinguistic cues, adults, Russian

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Karczewski, D. and Buivolova, O. (2015) “Sensitivity to extralinguistic cues to identify generic and non-generic meaning”, Crossroads. A Journal of English Studies, (10), pp. 4–14. doi: 10.15290/cr.2015.10.3.01.

Daniel Karczewski 
Daniel Karczewski - University of Białystok, Poland
Olga Buivolova 
Olga Buivolova - National Research University Higher School of Economics, Moscow, Russia