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Syntactic complexity in the comprehension of wh-questions and relative clauses in typical language development and autism

Durrleman, S., Marinis, T. and Franck, J. (2016) Syntactic complexity in the comprehension of wh-questions and relative clauses in typical language development and autism. Applied Psycholinguistics, 37 (6). pp. 1501-1527. ISSN 1469-1817

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1017/S0142716416000059

Abstract/Summary

This study investigates effects of syntactic complexity operationalised in terms of movement, intervention and (NP) feature similarity in the development of A’ dependencies in 4-, 6-, and 8-year old typically developing (TD) French children and children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). Children completed an off-line comprehension task testing eight syntactic structures classified in four levels of complexity: Level 0: No Movement; Level 1: Movement without (configurational) Intervention; Level 2: Movement with Intervention from an element which is maximally different or featurally ‘disjoint’ (mismatched in both lexical NP restriction and number); Level 3: Movement with Intervention from an element similar in one feature or featurally ‘intersecting’ (matched in lexical NP restriction, mismatched in number). The results show that syntactic complexity affects TD children across the three age groups, but also indicate developmental differences between these groups. Movement affected all three groups in a similar way, but intervention effects in intersection cases were stronger in younger than older children, with NP feature similarity affecting only 4-year olds. Complexity effects created by the similarity in lexical restriction of an intervener thus appear to be overcome early in development, arguably thanks to other differences of this intervener (which was mismatched in number). Children with ASD performed less well than the TD children although they were matched on non-verbal reasoning. Overall, syntactic complexity affected their performance in a similar way as in their TD controls, but their performance correlated with non-verbal abilities rather than age, suggesting that their grammatical development does not follow the smooth relation to age that is found in TD children.

Item Type:Article
Refereed:Yes
Divisions:Interdisciplinary centres and themes > Centre for Integrative Neuroscience and Neurodynamics (CINN)
Faculty of Life Sciences > School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences > Development
Faculty of Life Sciences > School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences > Department of Clinical Language Sciences
Faculty of Life Sciences > School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences > Language and Cognition
Interdisciplinary centres and themes > Centre for Cognition Research (CCR)
Interdisciplinary centres and themes > Centre for Literacy and Multilingualism (CeLM)
ID Code:58431
Publisher:Cambridge University Press

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