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May I Quote You on That?

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A guide to English grammar and usage for the twenty-first century, pairing grammar rules with interesting and humorous quotations from American popular culture.

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Academic Paper

Title: Young children's sensitivity to new and given information when answering predicate-focus questions
Author: Dorothe Salome
Institution: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Author: Elena V. Lieven
Institution: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Author: Michael Tomasello
Institution: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Linguistic Field: Psycholinguistics
Abstract: In two studies we investigated 2-year-old children's answers to predicate-focus questions depending on the preceding context. Children were presented with a successive series of short video clips showing transitive actions (e.g., frog washing duck) in which either the action (action-new) or the patient (patient-new) was the changing, and therefore new, element. During the last scene the experimenter asked the question (e.g., “What's the frog doing now?”). We found that children expressed the action and the patient in the patient-new condition but expressed only the action in the action-new condition. These results show that children are sensitive to both the predicate-focus question and newness in context. A further finding was that children expressed new patients in their answers more often when there was a verbal context prior to the questions than when there was not.


This article appears IN Applied Psycholinguistics Vol. 31, Issue 1, which you can READ on Cambridge's site or on LINGUIST .

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