Children struggle with the interpretation of pronouns in direct speech (Ann said, “I get a cookie”), but not in indirect speech (Ann said that she gets a cookie) (Köder & Maier, 2016). Yet children's books consistently favor direct over indirect speech (Baker & Freebody, 1989). To reconcile these seemingly contradictory findings, we hypothesize that the poor performance found by Köder and Maier (2016) is due to the information-transmission setting of that experiment, and that a narrative setting facilitates children's processing of direct speech. We tested 42 Dutch children (4;1–7;2) and 20 adults with a modified version of Köder and Maier's referent selection task, where participants interpret speech reports in an interactive story book. Results confirm our hypothesis: children are much better at interpreting pronouns in direct speech in such a narrative setting than they were in an information-transmission setting. This indicates that the pragmatic context of reports affects their processing effort.
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