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Real-time comprehension of garden-path constructions by preschoolers: A Mandarin perspective

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 December 2020

Peng Zhou*
Tsinghua University, Beijing, China
Jiawei Shi*
Tsinghua University, Beijing, China
Likan Zhan
Beijing Language and Culture University, Beijing, China


The present study investigated whether 4- and 5-year-old Mandarin-speaking children are able to process garden-path constructions in real time when the working memory burden associated with revision and reanalysis is kept to minimum. In total, 25 4-year-olds, 25 5-year-olds, and 30 adults were tested using the visual-world paradigm of eye tracking. The obtained eye gaze patterns reflect that the 4- and 5-year-olds, like the adults, committed to an initial misinterpretation and later successfully revised their initial interpretation. The findings show that preschool children are able to revise and reanalyze their initial commitment and then arrive at the correct interpretation using the later-encountered linguistic information when processing the garden-path constructions in the current study. The findings also suggest that although the 4-year-olds successfully processed the garden-path constructions in real time, they were not as effective as the 5-year-olds and the adults in revising and reanalyzing their initial mistaken interpretation when later encountering the critical linguistic cue. Taken together, our findings call for a fine-grained model of child sentence processing.

Original Article
© The Author(s), 2020. Published by Cambridge University Press

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PZ and JS contributed equally to this work.


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