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ERIC Number: ED526401
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2011
Pages: 252
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 0
ISBN: ISBN-978-1-1245-0576-3
Reading Development Electrified: Semantic and Syntactic Integration during Sentence Comprehension in School-Age Children and Young Adults
VanDyke, Justine M.
ProQuest LLC, Ph.D. Dissertation, University of South Florida
Adults are able to access semantic and syntactic information rapidly as they hear or read in real-time in order to interpret sentences. Young children, on the other hand, tend to rely on syntactically-based parsing routines, adopting the first noun as the agent of a sentence regardless of plausibility, at least during oral comprehension. Little is currently known about children's access to syntactic and semantic information during text comprehension as reading proceeds in real-time. To this end, this study examined two questions: (1) Are children as sensitive to adults to identifying sentences containing semantic and syntactic violations as adults? (2) Do children make use of semantic (thematic) and syntactic (subcategory) information to parse sentences during reading and, if so, at what age? To address these questions, event-related potentials (ERPs) and behavioral grammaticality judgments were collected from three groups of individuals (17 young adults, aged 18-22 years; 17 older children, aged 11-13 years; and 17 younger children aged 7-9 years). In Experiment 1, participants read sentences containing a semantic (thematic role) violation as well as two types of control sentences. In Experiment 2, the same group of individuals read sentences containing a syntactic (subcategory) violation as well as control sentences. Analysis focused on ERP component activity elicited to the critical verbs in the sentences. Experiment 1 results revealed that adults exhibited a larger P600 ERP component to critical verbs in sentences containing a thematic role violation relative to controls. These findings support the view that semantic information, relating to the thematic "fit" between nouns and verbs, can guide parsing processes under some circumstances. Younger children demonstrated a larger N400 ERP component to critical verbs in sentences containing a thematic role violation compared to controls, indicating application of a syntactic strategy based on word order to parse sentences. Older and younger children also exhibited a P300-like component to control sentences relative to violations, suggesting task-based effects on parsing processes. In Experiment 2, adults exhibited a larger posterior P600 to critical verbs in sentences containing a syntactic (subcategory) violation relative to controls, supporting the view that the scalp distribution of the P600 can vary as a function of stimulus complexity. Younger children, again, exhibited an N400 component to critical verbs in sentences containing a subcategory violation, similar to the pattern of results observed in Experiment 1. Older children, on the other hand, demonstrated evidence of more adult-like processing strategies, as indexed by increased frontal P600 activation to subcategory violations compared to controls. Discussion focuses on the developmental changes in the cues that are used to parse and interpret sentences in typically developing populations. Results have implications for both theories of text comprehension development in good readers and provide a basis for future comparisons with populations who struggle with reading comprehension. [The dissertation citations contained here are published with the permission of ProQuest LLC. Further reproduction is prohibited without permission. Copies of dissertations may be obtained by Telephone (800) 1-800-521-0600. Web page:]
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Publication Type: Dissertations/Theses - Doctoral Dissertations
Education Level: Elementary Secondary Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A