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ERIC Number: EJ788644
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2008-Apr
Pages: 13
Abstractor: Author
Reference Count: 0
ISSN: ISSN-0010-0277
Word Order and Information Status in Child Language
Narasimhan, Bhuvana; Dimroth, Christine
Cognition, v107 n1 p317-329 Apr 2008
In expressing rich, multi-dimensional thought in language, speakers are influenced by a range of factors that influence the ordering of utterance constituents. A fundamental principle that guides constituent ordering in adults has to do with information status, the accessibility of referents in discourse. Typically, adults order previously mentioned referents ("old" or accessible information) first, before they introduce referents that have not yet been mentioned in the discourse ("new" or inaccessible information) at both sentential and phrasal levels. Here we ask whether a similar principle influences ordering patterns at the phrasal level in children who are in the early stages of combining words productively. Prior research shows that when conveying semantic relations, children reproduce language-specific ordering patterns in the input, suggesting that they do not have a bias for any particular order to describe "who did what to whom". But our findings show that when they label "old" versus "new" referents, 3- to 5-year-old children prefer an ordering pattern opposite to that of adults (Study 1). Children's ordering preference is not derived from input patterns, as "old-before-new" is also the preferred order in caregivers' speech directed to young children (Study 2). Our findings demonstrate that a key principle governing ordering preferences in adults does not originate in early childhood, but develops: from new-to-old to old-to-new.
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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