NotesFAQContact Us
Search Tips
Peer reviewed Peer reviewed
Direct linkDirect link
ERIC Number: EJ1008107
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2013-Jun
Pages: 13
Abstractor: As Provided
ISSN: ISSN-0012-1649
The Use of Lexical and Referential Cues in Children's Online Interpretation of Adjectives
Huang, Yi Ting; Snedeker, Jesse
Developmental Psychology, v49 n6 p1090-1102 Jun 2013
Recent research on moment-to-moment language comprehension has revealed striking differences between adults and preschool children. Adults rapidly use the "referential principle" to resolve syntactic ambiguity, assuming that modification is more likely when there are 2 possible referents for a definite noun phrase. Young children do not. We examine the scope of this phenomenon by exploring whether children use the referential principle to resolve another form of ambiguity. Scalar adjectives ("big", "small") are typically used to refer to an object when contrasting members of the same category are present in the scene (big and small coins). In the present experiment, 5-year-olds and adults heard instructions like "Point to the big (small) coin" while their eye-movements were measured to displays containing 1 or 2 coins. Both groups rapidly recruited the meaning of the adjective to distinguish between referents of different sizes. Critically, like adults, children were quicker to look to the correct item in trials containing 2 possible referents compared with 1. Nevertheless, children's sensitivity to the referential principle was substantially delayed compared to adults', suggesting possible differences in the recruitment of this top- down cue. The implications of current and previous findings are discussed with respect to the development of the architecture of language comprehension. (Contains 1 table, 5 figures and 1 footnote.)
American Psychological Association. Journals Department, 750 First Street NE, Washington, DC 20002-4242. Tel: 800-374-2721; Tel: 202-336-5510; Fax: 202-336-5502; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Massachusetts