Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
×
Home

Why do children pay more attention to grammatical morphemes at the ends of sentences?

  • Megha SUNDARA (a1)

Abstract

Children pay more attention to the beginnings and ends of sentences rather than the middle. In natural speech, ends of sentences are prosodically and segmentally enhanced; they are also privileged by sensory and recall advantages. We contrasted whether acoustic enhancement or sensory and recall-related advantages are necessary and sufficient for the salience of grammatical morphemes at the ends of sentences. We measured 22-month-olds’ listening times to grammatical and ungrammatical sentences with third person singular -s. Crucially, by cross-splicing the speech stimuli, acoustic enhancement and sensory and recall advantages were fully crossed. Only children presented with the verb in sentence-final position, a position with sensory and recall advantages, distinguished between the grammatical and ungrammatical sentences. Thus, sensory and recall advantages alone were necessary and sufficient to make grammatical morphemes at ends of sentences salient. These general processing constraints privilege ends of sentences over middles, regardless of the acoustic enhancement.

Copyright

Corresponding author

Address for correspondence: Megha Sundara, Department of Linguistics, University of California at Los Angeles, 3125 Campbell Hall, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1543. e-mail: megha.sundara@humnet.ucla.edu

Footnotes

Hide All

This research was funded by UCLA internal grants. I would like to thank Adrienne Scutellaro and Kristi Hendrickson for recruiting and testing subjects, and Katherine Demuth for discussions about the experiment.

Footnotes

References

Hide All
Aslin, R. N., Woodward, J. Z., LaMendola, P. & Bever, T. G. (1996). Models of word segmentation in fluent maternal speech to infants. In Morgan, J. L. & Demuth, K. (eds), Signal to syntax: bootstrapping from speech to grammar in early acquisition, 117–34. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Beckman, M. E. & Pierrehumbert, J. B. (1986). Intonational structure in Japanese and English. Phonology Yearbook 3, 255309.
Benavides-Varela, S. & Mehler, J. (2015), Verbal positional memory in 7-month-olds. Child Development 86, 209–23.
Bernstein Ratner, N. (1986). Durational cues which mark clause boundaries in mother–child speech. Journal of Phonetics 14, 303–9.
Boersma, P. & Weenink, D., (2005). Praat: Doing phonetics by computer. Software. University of Amsterdam.
Breen, M., Fedorenko, E., Wagner, M. & Gibson, E., (2010). Acoustic correlates of information structure. Language and Cognitive Processes 25(7), 1044–98.
Cohen, L. B., Atkinson, D. J. & Chaput, H. H. (2004). A new program for obtaining and organizing data in infant perception and cognition studies (Version 1.0). Austin: University of Texas.
Dalal, R. & Loeb, D. (2005). Imitative production of regular past tense -ed by English-speaking children with specific language impairment. International Journal of Communication Disorders 40(1), 6782.
Dale, P. S. & Fenson, L. (1996). Lexical development norms for young children. Behavior Research Methods, Instruments & Computers 28, 125–7.
Deese, J. & Kaufman, R. A. (1957). Serial effects in recall of unorganized and sequentially organized verbal material Journal of Experimental Psychology 54(3), 180–7.
Elman, J. L. (1993). Learning and development in neural networks: the importance of starting small. Cognition 48, 7199.
Endress, A. D., Nespor, M. & Mehler, J. (2009). Perceptual and memory constraints on language acquisition. Trends in Cognitive Sciences 13(8), 348–53.
Fernald, A. & Mazzie, C. (1991). Prosody and focus in speech to infants and adults. Developmental Psychology 27, 209–21.
Ferry, A. L., Fló, A., Brusini, P., Cattarossi, L., Macagno, F., Nespor, M. & Mehler, J. (2016). On the edge of language acquisition: inherent constraints on encoding multisyllabic sequences in the neonate brain. Developmental Science 19(3), 488503.
Fisher, C. & Tokura, H. (1996). Acoustic cues to grammatical structure in infant-directed speech: cross-linguistic evidence. Child Development 67, 3192–218.
Fougeron, C. & Keating, P. (1997). Articulatory strengthening at edges of prosodic domains. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 101, 3728–40.
Golinkoff, R. M. & Alioto, A. (1995). Infant-directed speech facilitates lexical learning in adults hearing Chinese: implications for language acquisition. Journal of Child Language 22, 703–26.
Gupta, P., Lipinski, J., Abbs, B. & Lin, P.-H. (2005). Serial position effects in nonword repetition. Journal of Memory and Language 53(1), 141–62.
Hartley, D. E. H., Wright, B. A., Hogan, S. C. & Moore, D. R. (2000). Age related improvements in auditory backward and simultaneous masking in 6- to 10-year-old children. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research 43, 1402–15.
Horne, M., Strangert, E. & Heldner, M. (1995). Prosodic boundary strength in Swedish: final lengthening and silent interval duration. Proceedings of the ICPhS 95, 170173.
Hsieh, L., Leonard, L. B. & Swanson, L. A. (1999). Some differences between English plural noun inflections and third singular verb inflections in the input: the contributions of frequency, sentence position, and duration. Journal of Child Language 26, 531–43.
Hurlstone, M. J., Hitch, G. J. & Baddeley, A. D. (2014). Memory for serial order across domains: an overview of the literature and directions for future research. Psychological Bulletin 140(2), 339–73.
Keating, P., Cho, T., Fougeron, C. & Hsu, C.-S. (2003). Domain-initial articulatory strengthening in four languages. In Local, J., Ogden, R. & Temple, R. (eds), Papers in laboratory phonology VI, 143–61. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Leonard, L. B., Miller, C. & Owen, A. (2000). The comprehension of verb agreement morphology by English-speaking children with specific language impairment. Clinical Linguistics & Phonetics 14, 465–81.
Li, P. & Shirai, Y. (2000). The acquisition of lexical and grammatical aspect. Berlin & New York: Mouton de Gruyter.
MacWhinney, B. (2000). The CHILDES Project: tools for analyzing talk. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Montgomery, J. W. & Leonard, L. B. (2006). Effects of acoustic manipulation on the real-time inflectional processing of children with specific language impairment. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research 49, 1238–56.
Moore, B. C. J. (1997). An introduction to the psychology of hearing, 4th ed. London: Academic Press.
Newport, E. (1990). Maturational constraints on language learning. Cognitive Science 14, 1128.
Pierrehumbert, J. B. & Hirschberg, J. (1990). The meaning of intonational contours in the interpretation of discourse. In Cohen, P., Morgan, J., & Pollack, M. (Eds.), Intentions in communication, (pp.271311). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Pinto, J. P., Fernald, A., McRoberts, G. W. & Cole, S. (1999). Reliability and validity in infant auditory preference procedures. In Rovee-Collier, C., Lipsitt, L. & Hayne, H. (eds), Advances in infancy research (Vol. 12, pp. 221–36). Stamford, CT: Ablex.
Saffran, J. R., Werker, J. F. & Werner, L. A. (2006). The infant's auditory world: hearing, speech, and the beginnings of language. In Siegler, R. & Kuhn, D. (eds), Handbook of child development, 58108. New York: Wiley.
Seidl, A. & Johnson, E. K. (2006). Infant word segmentation revisited: edge alignment facilitates target extraction. Developmental Science 9(6), 565–73.
Seidl, A. & Johnson, E. K. (2008). Boundary alignment enables 11-month-olds to segment vowel-initial words from speech. Journal of Child Language 35, 124.
Shukla, M., White, K. S., and Aslin, R. N. (2011). Prosody guides the rapid mapping of auditory word forms onto visual objects in 6-mo-old infants. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 108, 6038–43.
Slobin, D. (1973) Cognitive prerequisites for the development of grammar. In Ferguson, C. A. & Slobin, D. I. (eds), Studies of child language development, 175209. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.
Slobin, D. I. (1985). Crosslinguistic evidence for the language-making capacity. In Slobin, D. I. (ed.), The crosslinguistic study of language acquisition (Vol. 2, pp. 1157–256). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Song, J. Y., Sundara, M. & Demuth, K. (2009). Effects of phonology on children's production of English 3rd person singular –s. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research 52(3), 623–42.
Sundara, M., Demuth, K. & Kuhl, P.K. (2011). Sentence-position effects on children's comprehension & production of English 3rd person singular –s. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research 54, 5571.
Wightman, C. W., Shattuck-Hufnagel, S., Osterdorf, M. & Price, P. (1992). Segmental durations in the vicinity of prosodic phrase boundaries. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 91 (1707–1717).
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Journal of Child Language
  • ISSN: 0305-0009
  • EISSN: 1469-7602
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-child-language
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Metrics

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed