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Sentence processing in bilingual children: evidence from garden-path sentences

Pontikas, G., Cunnings, I. ORCID: and Marinis, T. (2024) Sentence processing in bilingual children: evidence from garden-path sentences. Linguistic Approaches to Bilingualism. ISSN 1879-9272

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1075/lab.22104.pon


Research in sentence processing in bilingual children is emergent but incomplete as very few studies examine the processing of structurally complex sentences or bilingual children’s real-time interpretation of sentences. One underexplored linguistic feature which can offer insights in this direction are garden-path sentences, i.e., sentences with temporary syntactic ambiguity. These are difficult to process for monolingual children as incremental processing results in an initial misinterpretation and the need for reanalysis. Studies on bilingual children’s processing of garden-path sentences have used paradigms with limited ecological validity and which are not informative about one’s interpretation while listening. This study bridges this gap by investigating the processing of garden-path sentences in bilingual children with the visual-world eye-tracking paradigm. It further explores the role of referential context in the visual stimuli to aid disambiguation. Monolingual and bilingual children aged 8-11 years completed a task similar to Trueswell et al. (1999). The results showed similar difficulty with revising garden-path sentences as evidenced by comprehension accuracy for both groups but only the monolinguals showed real-time garden-path effects in the gaze data. We interpret these findings as a manifestation of slower sentence processing in bilingual children. Both groups made limited use of the referential context to facilitate processing.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Interdisciplinary Research Centres (IDRCs) > Centre for Literacy and Multilingualism (CeLM)
Life Sciences > School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences > Department of Clinical Language Sciences
ID Code:115605
Publisher:John Benjamins


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