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Children’s processing of reflexives and pronouns in English: Evidence from eye-movements during listening

Clackson, Kaili and Felser, Claudia and Clahsen, Harald (2011) 'Children’s processing of reflexives and pronouns in English: Evidence from eye-movements during listening.' Journal of Memory and Language, 65 (2). pp. 128-144. ISSN 0749596X

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Abstract

This study examined how 6–9 year-old English-speaking children and adults establish anaphoric dependencies during auditory sentence comprehension. Using eye-movement monitoring during listening and a corresponding sentence–picture judgment task, we investigated both the ultimate interpretation and the online processing of reflexives in comparison to non-reflexive pronouns, focusing on how binding constraints interact with a competitor antecedent’s relative (discourse) prominence. Whilst our offline results show that the children’s ultimate interpretation for reflexives was constrained by binding principles in the same way as adults’, the eye-movement data revealed that during processing, children were temporarily more distracted than adults when multiple cues supported a prominent competitor antecedent. These results indicate that in addition to binding principles, children’s online referential decisions are also affected by discourse-level information. We suggest that the observed child/adult differences stem from children’s greater difficulty, compared to adults, in controlling multiple sources of information during sentence comprehension.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Anaphor resolution; Binding constraints; Eye tracking during listening; Children’s sentence processing
Subjects: P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
Divisions: Faculty of Social Sciences > Language and Linguistics, Department of
Depositing User: Admin
Date Deposited: 03 Aug 2011 10:09
Last Modified: 26 Aug 2011 10:11
URI: http://repository.essex.ac.uk/id/eprint/262

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