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Abstract: Phillips

Understanding antonymy is an important conceptual development that likely supports the acquisition of other skills (e.g., verbal irony where what is said is the opposite of what is intended; Climie & Pexman, 2008). Prior research employed verbal response tasks and concluded that children do not understand antonymy before 4 years of age (e.g., Clark, 1972). Discourse analyses, however, suggest it may develop at a younger age (Murphy & Jones, 2008). The present research reduced task demands

with a novel, non-verbal response task. Three labelled images were presented (e.g., happy dog - sad dog - big dog), the experimenter selected one and children were asked to select the "opposite one" (condition 1) or "another one" (condition 2 and control condition). In the control condition the labels did not contain adjectives.

Results showed an effect of condition (p = .033); children in condition 1 outperformed children in condition 2 (p = .035) and in the control condition (p = .006). In condition 1, only 4-year-old children performed above chance (p = .002). Eye gaze analyses did not provide any evidence for latent understanding of the concept of opposites in 3-year-old children.

These results support and extend previous research by suggesting that 4-year­ old children, but not 3-year-old children, show an appreciation for the antonymy relationship, and that this appreciation generalizes to a number of different antonym pairs. Furthermore, children demonstrate this appreciation only when the label "opposite" is used in the task, suggesting that antonymy is not a relationship made salient by stimulus properties alone.