Edited by Inbal Arnon and Eve V. Clark
[Trends in Language Acquisition Research 7] 2011
► pp. 203–222
Individual differences in measures of linguistic experience account for variability in the sentence processing skill of five-year-olds
The mechanisms underlying developmental transitions in sentence processing are not well understood. Eyetracking research demonstrates that five-year-olds do not use visual scene cues to constrain their interpretation of sentences as adults do (e.g. Snedeker & Trueswell 2004). This research also suggests that developmental differences in cue use may result from differing language experience; thus increased linguistic experience may improve children's use of visual context. Here, we employ computer mouse-tracking to investigate how young children integrate multiple sources of information to extract meaning. Children heard structurally ambiguous sentences while viewing scenes that did or did not support the difficult relative modifier interpretation. As previously reported, children rarely use visual context. Further, children with less language experience made more offline mistakes, implicating language experience as a possible mechanism underlying transitions to adult-like sentence comprehension. Keywords: Language comprehension; mouse-tracking; language development
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