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Lang Learn Dev. 2007 Summer;3(3):199-231.

Increasing Flexibility in Children's Online Processing of Grammatical and Nonce Determiners in Fluent Speech.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Stanford University.


Two experiments using online speech processing measures with 18- to 36-month-olds extended research by Gerken & McIntosh (1993) showing that young children's comprehension is disrupted when the grammatical determiner in a noun phrase is replaced with a nonce determiner (the car vs. po car). In Expt. 1, 18-month-olds were slower and less accurate to identify familiar nouns on nonce-article than grammatical-article trials, although older children who produced determiners in their own speech showed no disruption. However, when tested on novel words in Expt. 2, even linguistically advanced 34-month-olds had greater difficulty identifying familiar as well as newly learned object names preceded by a nonce article. Children's success in "listening through" an uninformative functor-like nonce syllable before a familiar noun was related to their level of grammatical competence, but their attention to the nonce article also varied with lexical familiarity and the overall redundancy of the processing context.

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