Chapter 10. On-line grammaticality judgments

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Online sentence processing in children is still an emerging field. This crosslinguistic study examined the on-line sentence processing in a grammaticality judgment experiment. In each language (French, Portuguese) three age groups of children (6–7 year-olds, 8–9 year-olds and 10–11 year-olds) and a group of adults were asked to detect grammatical violations as quickly as possible. Three factors were studied: the violation position (early vs. late in the sentence), the violation span (intraphrasal vs. interphrasal), and the violation type (agreement vs. word-order). The main developmental results were as follows. Not surprisingly, children of both languages were always slower than adults at detecting grammatical violations. No matter how old they were or which language they spoke, subjects were faster at judging sentences with violations that occurred later and the effect was especially strong in the younger groups. As predicted, intraphrasal violations were more rapidly detected than interphrasal ones in French, but Portuguese subjects presented the opposite pattern. This paradoxical result seems linked to the low perceptibility of phonological violations in oral sentence processing. Finally, agreement violations were more rapidly detected than word-order ones at every age in French, whereas, such differences did not reach significance in Portuguese. Crosslinguistic comparisons between these two romance languages are discussed in the light of cue validity and cue cost interactions during online sentence processing.


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