Characterizing the nature of linguistic representations and how they emerge during early development is a central goal in the cognitive science of language. One area in which this development plays out is in the acquisition of dependencies—relationships between co-occurring elements in a word, phrase, or sentence. These dependencies often involve multiple levels of representation and abstraction, built up as infants gain experience with their native language. The authors used the Headturn Preference Procedure to systematically investigate the early acquisition of 1 such dependency, the agreement between a subject and verb in French, at 6 different ages between 14 and 24 months. The results reveal a complex developmental trajectory that provides the first evidence that infants might indeed progress through distinct stages in the acquisition of this nonadjacent dependency. The authors discuss how changes in general cognition and representational knowledge (from reflecting surface statistics to higher-level morphological features) might account for their findings. These findings highlight the importance of studying language acquisition at close time intervals over a substantial age range.
|Number of pages||10|
|Early online date||13 Dec 2016|
|Publication status||Published - Dec 2016|
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- School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences - Personal Chair of Experimental Linguistics
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