Do two and three year old children use an incremental first-NP-as-agent bias to process active transitive and passive sentences? : A permutation analysis

Abbot-Smith, Kirsten, Chang, Franklin, Rowland, C, Ferguson, Heather J., Pine, J (2017) Do two and three year old children use an incremental first-NP-as-agent bias to process active transitive and passive sentences? : A permutation analysis. PloS one, . ISSN 1932-6203. (doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0186129)

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Abstract

We used eye-tracking to investigate if and when children show an incremental bias to assume that the first noun phrase in a sentence is the agent (first-NP-as-agent bias) while processing the meaning of English active and passive transitive sentences. We also investi-gated whether children can override this bias to successfully distinguish active from passive sentences, after processing the remainder of the sentence frame. For this second question we used eye-tracking (Study 1) and forced-choice pointing (Study 2). For both studies, we used a paradigm in which participants simultaneously saw two novel actions with reversed agent-patient relations while listening to active and passive sentences. We compared English-speaking 25-month-olds and 41-month-olds in between-subjects sentence struc-ture conditions (Active Transitive Condition vs. Passive Condition). A permutation analysis found that both age groups showed a bias to incrementally map the first noun in a sentence onto an agent role. Regarding the second question, 25-month-olds showed some evidence of distinguishing the two structures in the eye-tracking study. However, the 25-month-olds did not distinguish active from passive sentences in the forced choice pointing task. In contrast, the 41-month-old children did reanalyse their initial first-NP-as-agent bias to the extent that they clearly distinguished between active and passive sentences both in the eye-tracking data and in the pointing task. The results are discussed in relation to the development of syntactic (re)parsing.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1371/journal.pone.0186129
Uncontrolled keywords: Syntax; Eye-tracking; Acquisition; Passive Agent; Transitive; Preschoolers
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Divisions: Faculties > Social Sciences > School of Psychology > Developmental Psychology
Depositing User: Kirsten Abbot-Smith
Date Deposited: 19 Oct 2017 19:47 UTC
Last Modified: 29 May 2019 19:43 UTC
Resource URI: https://kar.kent.ac.uk/id/eprint/64089 (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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