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Infants aged 12 months use the gender feature in determiners to anticipate upcoming words: an eye-tracking study

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 March 2022

Child Psychopathology Unit, Scientific Institute, IRCCS Eugenio Medea, Bosisio Parini, Lecco Department of Psychology, University of Milano-Bicocca
Valentina RIVA
Child Psychopathology Unit, Scientific Institute, IRCCS Eugenio Medea, Bosisio Parini, Lecco
Child Psychopathology Unit, Scientific Institute, IRCCS Eugenio Medea, Bosisio Parini, Lecco
Child Psychopathology Unit, Scientific Institute, IRCCS Eugenio Medea, Bosisio Parini, Lecco
Child Psychopathology Unit, Scientific Institute, IRCCS Eugenio Medea, Bosisio Parini, Lecco
Corresponding author: Chiara Cantiani, PhD, Child Psychopathology Unit, Scientific Institute, IRCCS “Eugenio Medea”, via don Luigi Monza, 20, 23842 Bosisio Parini (Lecco). E-mail:


We investigated online early comprehension in Italian children aged 12 and 20 months, focusing on the role of morphosyntactic features (i.e., gender) carried by determiners in facilitating comprehension and anticipating upcoming words. A naturalistic eye-tracking procedure was employed, recording looking behaviours during a classical Looking-While-Listening task. Children were presented with sentences and pictures of two objects representing nouns characterised by either the same gender (determiner was uninformative) or a different gender (determiner was informative). As expected, 20-month-old children recognised the target picture when this was named, and they were faster in the different-gender condition. Interestingly, 12-month-old infants identified the target picture only when presented with an informative determiner (different-gender condition). These results suggest that, as early as 12 months of age and with an improvement seen at 20 months of age, toddlers can extract and use determiner gender features to enhance comprehension and make predictions about upcoming words.

© The Author(s), 2022. Published by Cambridge University Press

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