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Children’s and adults’ processing of syntactically ambiguous sentences during reading

Joseph, H. S. S. L. ORCID: and Liversedge, S. P. (2013) Children’s and adults’ processing of syntactically ambiguous sentences during reading. PLoS ONE, 8 (1). e54141. ISSN 1932-6203

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0054141


While there has been a fair amount of research investigating children’s syntactic processing during spoken language comprehension, and a wealth of research examining adults’ syntactic processing during reading, as yet very little research has focused on syntactic processing during text reading in children. In two experiments, children and adults read sentences containing a temporary syntactic ambiguity while their eye movements were monitored. In Experiment 1, participants read sentences such as, ‘The boy poked the elephant with the long stick/trunk from outside the cage’ in which the attachment of a prepositional phrase was manipulated. In Experiment 2, participants read sentences such as, ‘I think I’ll wear the new skirt I bought tomorrow/yesterday. It’s really nice’ in which the attachment of an adverbial phrase was manipulated. Results showed that adults and children exhibited similar processing preferences, but that children were delayed relative to adults in their detection of initial syntactic misanalysis. It is concluded that children and adults have the same sentence-parsing mechanism in place, but that it operates with a slightly different time course. In addition, the data support the hypothesis that the visual processing system develops at a different rate than the linguistic processing system in children.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Interdisciplinary Research Centres (IDRCs) > Centre for Literacy and Multilingualism (CeLM)
Arts, Humanities and Social Science > Institute of Education > Language and Literacy in Education
ID Code:43399
Publisher:Public Library of Science

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