ERIC Number: EJ882987
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2010-Jun
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 0
The Understanding of Word Definitions in School-Age Children
Marinellie, Sally A.
Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, v39 n3 p179-197 Jun 2010
This study investigated children's understanding of unfamiliar noun and verb definitions in tasks that were manipulated for syntactic and semantic properties of definitions. The study was also designed to examine the relation between understanding word definitions and the skills of syntactic awareness and making inferences. A total of 117 children over three upper elementary grades (3, 4, 5) participated in the study. The definitional tasks were presented in multiple choice format, with each definition followed by four context sentences. In the syntactic/semantic condition, which included nouns and verbs, the context sentences were manipulated for syntactic and semantic properties. In the semantic condition, which included only nouns, the context sentences were manipulated only for semantics. All children also completed a syntactic awareness task and a making inferences task. Results indicated that children did not make significant grade improvements in the semantic task, but did so in the syntactic/semantic task, suggesting the dependence of syntactic cues on definitional understanding. Findings further suggested that inferencing and syntactic awareness are important to children's ability in understanding a definition for an unfamiliar word and to integrating that meaning into a context sentence.
Descriptors: Sentences, Cues, Semantics, Nouns, Definitions, Inferences, Semiotics, Syntax, Children, Verbs, Grade 3, Grade 4, Grade 5, Elementary School Students, Metalinguistics
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: Elementary Education; Grade 3; Grade 4; Grade 5
Authoring Institution: N/A