Referential and Syntactic Processes: What develops?

In Edward Gibson & Neal J. Pearlmutter (eds.), The Processing and Acquisition of Reference. MIT Press. pp. 65 (2011)
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Abstract

People use language to communicate their perceptions and conceptions of the world, and underlying this communication is the linguistic system that interacts with the human perceptual and conceptual machinery. This is supported by research on sentence comprehension among adults. This chapter examines theories of sentence processing in children and adults. It comments on a study John Trueswell et al. in which they demonstrated that five-year-old children appeared to be unable to use contextual cues to resolve ambiguity in sentences such as “Put the frog on the napkin into the box.” Trueswell et al. explained this finding by arguing that children have limited working memory capacity that prevents them from using information from the context to disambiguate linguistic input. The chapter first discusses real-time sentence processing in adults before presenting a developmental account of sentence comprehension. It then considers the so-called Kindergarten-path Effect along with referential scenes, definite reference, and restrictive modifiers. It also looks at the effects of discourse and pragmatics on parsing by children and concludes with a discussion of the development of attention in children.

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