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Effects of Prenominal Adjective Ordering on Children's Latencies and Errors in an Immediate Sentence Recall Task NICHD

Freedle, Roy O.; Hall, William S.
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Report Number:
ETS Research Bulletin
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Subject/Key Words:
National Institute for Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), Developmental Psychology, Imitation, Language Acquisition, Recall (Psychology), Sentence Structure, Young Children


A total of 34 children, ages 2 and a half to 6, were presented with sentences for imitation that either violated or honored a prenominal adjective ordering rule which requires that size adjectives must precede color adjectives. Two response measures were evaluated in terms of these sentence types: latency to begin a sentence imitation and recall errors. For both the older and younger subjects, latencies following adjective order violations were significantly longer than following correct adjective order. This indicated the existence of a perceptual strategy in round phrase segmentation which occurs at the time the sentence is comprehended. The recall error measure indicated that a different strategy is reflected in the output phase of a sentence limitation task: this strategy was called a "shift-to-grammatical-output." Older subjects were found to employ this latter strategy, whereas the younger subjects did not employ it. These results were interpreted in terms of Bever's developmental theory of prenominal adjective ordering acquisition, the empirical work of Martin and Molfese, and a more general developmental theory suggested by the work of Danks, Glucksberg, and Schwenk. (Author/SET) (29pp.)

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