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The Processing and Acquisition of Reference$
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Edward A. Gibson and Neal J. Pearlmutter

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780262015127

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: August 2013

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262015127.001.0001

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Children’s Use of Context in Ambiguity Resolution

Children’s Use of Context in Ambiguity Resolution

(p.43) 3 Children’s Use of Context in Ambiguity Resolution
The Processing and Acquisition of Reference

Luisa Meroni

Stephen Crain

The MIT Press

This chapter examines children’s use of the referential context in resolving temporary syntactic ambiguities, focusing on the results of an eye-tracking study undertaken by John Trueswell et al. (1999). It agrees with the suggestion by Trueswell et al. that children overcommit to early parsing decisions but not their claim that children are less able than adults to use the referential context to guide their online parsing decisions. It describes four experiments in which children’s actions were investigated with respect to displays similar to the ones tested by Trueswell et al. The experiments demonstrate the children’s linguistic behavior, especially the way they process referential information. In particular, they show that children, like adults, follow fundamental parsing principles that have been proposed in the literature: the Theta Assignment Principle and the Principle of Referential Success. This conclusion is consistent with the Continuity Assumption.

Keywords:   children, referential context, syntactic ambiguities, John Trueswell, parsing, linguistic behavior, referential information, Theta Assignment Principle, Principle of Referential Success, Continuity Assumption

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