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Young Children's Imitation of Nonsense Syllable Strings, Word Strings, and Grammatical Sentences NICHD

Keeney, Terrence J.
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Report Number:
ETS Research Memorandum
Document Type:
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Subject/Key Words:
National Institute for Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), Grammar, Language Development, Linguistics, Sentence Structure, Speech Communication


This paper was presented at the biennial meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development in Santa Monica, California on March 28, 1969. This study was designed to investigate to what extent young children's elicited imitation of short utterances works through the meaning system. Imitation of nonsense syllable strings, word lists, and grammatical sentences was compared in order to discover the separate contributions of lexical and grammatical meaning to the imitative system. The author's study of 25 young children led to the conclusion that their elicited, immediate imitation, even of short utterances, does work through the meaning system at least to the extent that vast differences in lexical meaningfulness and grammaticality are reflected in the imitative performance.

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