Children's comprehension of sentences with focus particles and the role of cognitive control: an eye tracking study with german-learning 4-year-olds

  • Children’s interpretations of sentences containing focus particles do not seem adult-like until school age. This study investigates how German 4-year-old children comprehend sentences with the focus particle ‘nur’ (only) by using different tasks and controlling for the impact of general cognitive abilities on performance measures. Two sentence types with ‘only’ in either pre-subject or pre-object position were presented. Eye gaze data and verbal responses were collected via the visual world paradigm combined with a sentence-picture verification task. While the eye tracking data revealed an adult-like pattern of focus particle processing, the sentence-picture verification replicated previous findings of poor comprehension, especially for ‘only’ in pre-subject position. A second study focused on the impact of general cognitive abilities on the outcomes of the verification task. Working memory was related to children’s performance in both sentence types whereas inhibitory control was selectively related to the number of errors for sentences with ‘only’ in pre-subject position. These results suggest that children at the age of 4 years have the linguistic competence to correctly interpret sentences with focus particles, which–depending on specific task demands–may be masked by immature general cognitive abilities.
Author:Barbara Höhle, Tom Fritzsche, Anja Müller
Pubmed Id:
Parent Title (English):PLoS One
Place of publication:Lawrence, Kan.
Document Type:Article
Date of Publication (online):2016/03/01
Date of first Publication:2016/03/01
Publishing Institution:Universitätsbibliothek Johann Christian Senckenberg
Release Date:2016/05/10
Issue:(3): e0149870
Page Number:27
First Page:1
Last Page:27
Copyright: © 2016 Höhle et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Institutes:Neuere Philologien / Neuere Philologien
Dewey Decimal Classification:4 Sprache / 41 Linguistik / 410 Linguistik
Licence (German):License LogoCreative Commons - Namensnennung 4.0