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Evolutionary Syntax

By Ljiljana Progovac

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Academic Paper

Title: Children's use of phonological information in ambiguity resolution: a view from Mandarin Chinese
Author: Peng Zhou
Email: click here TO access email
Institution: Macquarie University
Author: Y. Sun
Institution: University at Buffalo
Author: Stephen Crain
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Institution: Macquarie University
Author: Liqun Gao
Institution: Beijing Language and Culture University
Author: Likan Zhan
Email: click here TO access email
Institution: Macquarie University
Linguistic Field: Language Acquisition; Phonology; Psycholinguistics
Subject Language: Chinese, Mandarin
Abstract: How do children develop the mapping between prosody and other levels of linguistic knowledge? This question has received considerable attention in child language research. In the present study two experiments were conducted to investigate four- to five-year-old Mandarin-speaking children's sensitivity to prosody in ambiguity resolution. Experiment 1 used eye-tracking to assess children's use of stress in resolving structural ambiguities. Experiment 2 took advantage of special properties of Mandarin to investigate whether children can use intonational cues to resolve ambiguities involving speech acts. The results of our experiments show that children's use of prosodic information in ambiguity resolution varies depending on the type of ambiguity involved. Children can use prosodic information more effectively to resolve speech act ambiguities than to resolve structural ambiguities. This finding suggests that the mapping between prosody and semantics/pragmatics in young children is better established than the mapping between prosody and syntax.


This article appears IN Journal of Child Language Vol. 39, Issue 4, which you can READ on Cambridge's site or on LINGUIST .

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