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Lexical and referential influences on on-line spoken language comprehension: A comparison of adults and primary-school-age children

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Citation

Kidd, E., & Bavin, E. L. (2007). Lexical and referential influences on on-line spoken language comprehension: A comparison of adults and primary-school-age children. First Language, 27(1), 29-52. doi:10.1177/0142723707067437.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-002E-24AA-9
Abstract
This paper reports on two studies investigating children's and adults' processing of sentences containing ambiguity of prepositional phrase (PP) attachment. Study 1 used corpus data to investigate whether cues argued to be used by adults to resolve PP-attachment ambiguities are available in child-directed speech. Study 2 was an on-line reaction time study investigating the role of lexical and referential biases in syntactic ambiguity resolution by children and adults. Forty children (mean age 8;4) and 37 adults listened to V-NP-PP sentences containing temporary ambiguity of PP-attachment. The sentences were manipulated for (i) verb semantics, (ii) the definiteness of the object NP, and (iii) PP-attachment site. The children and adults did not differ qualitatively from each other in their resolution of the ambiguity. A verb semantics by attachment interaction suggested that different attachment analyses were pursued depending on the semantics of the verb. There was no influence of the definiteness of the object NP in either children's or adults' parsing preferences. The findings from the on-line task matched up well with the corpus data, thus identifying a role for the input in the development of parsing strategies.