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Language, Literacy, and Technology

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Academic Paper


Title: Lexical and referential cues to sentence interpretation: an investigation of children's interpretations of ambiguous sentences
Author: Evan Kidd
Institution: University of Manchester
Author: Edith L. Bavin
Institution: La Trobe University
Linguistic Field: Language Acquisition; Semantics
Abstract: This paper reports on an investigation of children's (aged 3;5–9;8) comprehension of sentences containing ambiguity of prepositional phrase (PP) attachment. Results from a picture selection study (N=90) showed that children use verb semantics and preposition type to resolve the ambiguity, with older children also showing sensitivity to the definiteness of the object NP as a cue to interpretation. Study 2 investigated three- and five-year-old children's (N=47) ability to override an instrumental interpretation of ambiguous PPs in order to process attributes of the referential scene. The results showed that while five-year-olds are capable of incorporating aspects of the referential scene into their interpretations, three-year-olds are not as successful. Overall, the results suggest that children are attuned very early to the lexico-semantic co-occurrences that have been shown to aid ambiguity resolution in adults, but that more diffuse cues to interpretation are used only later in development.

CUP AT LINGUIST

This article appears IN Journal of Child Language Vol. 32, Issue 4, which you can READ on Cambridge's site or on LINGUIST .



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