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ERIC Number: EJ1089615
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2016-Mar
Pages: 16
Abstractor: As Provided
ISSN: ISSN-1363-755X
Preschoolers Use Phrasal Prosody Online to Constrain Syntactic Analysis
de Carvalho, Alex; Dautriche, Isabelle; Christophe, Anne
Developmental Science, v19 n2 p235-250 Mar 2016
Two experiments were conducted to investigate whether young children are able to take into account phrasal prosody when computing the syntactic structure of a sentence. Pairs of French noun/verb homophones were selected to create locally ambiguous sentences (["la petite 'ferme'"] ["est très jolie"] "the small farm is very nice" vs. ["la petite"] ["'ferme' la fenêtre"] "the little girl closes the window"--brackets indicate prosodic boundaries). Although these sentences start with the same three words, "ferme" is a noun ("farm") in the former but a verb ("to close") in the latter case. The only difference between these sentence beginnings is the prosodic structure, that reflects the syntactic structure (with a prosodic boundary just before the critical word when it is a verb, and just after it when it is a noun). Crucially, all words following the homophone were masked, such that prosodic cues were the only disambiguating information. Children successfully exploited prosodic information to assign the appropriate syntactic category to the target word, in both an oral completion task (4.5-year-olds, Experiment 1) and in a preferential looking paradigm with an eye-tracker (3.5-year-olds and 4.5-year-olds, Experiment 2). These results show that both groups of children exploit the position of a word within the prosodic structure when computing its syntactic category. In other words, even younger children of 3.5 years old exploit phrasal prosody online to constrain their syntactic analysis. This ability to exploit phrasal prosody to compute syntactic structure may help children parse sentences containing unknown words, and facilitate the acquisition of word meanings.
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Grant or Contract Numbers: N/A