A Reaction Time Study of Grammaticality Judgments in Children Grammaticality judgments and decision times for two age groups of normally developing children were studied to determine when parsing decisions are made and how linguistic knowledge affects parsing. Children showed very good sensitivity to grammatical violations, although at somewhat lower levels than those reported for college-age students (Wulfeck, Bates, & ... Research Article
Research Article  |   December 01, 1993
A Reaction Time Study of Grammaticality Judgments in Children
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Beverly B. Wulfeck
    University of California, San Diego La Jolla, CA and Language Research Center Children’s Hospital Research Center San Diego, CA
  • Contact author: Beverly B. Wulfeck, PhD, Department of Pediatrics, 0631P, University of California, San Diego, 9500 Gilman Drive, La Jolla, CA 92093. E-mail: wulfeck@crl.ucsd.edu
Article Information
Development / School-Based Settings / Normal Language Processing / Language Disorders / Aphasia / Attention, Memory & Executive Functions / Traumatic Brain Injury / Speech, Voice & Prosody / Language / Research Articles
Research Article   |   December 01, 1993
A Reaction Time Study of Grammaticality Judgments in Children
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, December 1993, Vol. 36, 1208-1215. doi:10.1044/jshr.3606.1208
History: Received October 27, 1992 , Accepted June 4, 1993
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, December 1993, Vol. 36, 1208-1215. doi:10.1044/jshr.3606.1208
History: Received October 27, 1992; Accepted June 4, 1993

Grammaticality judgments and decision times for two age groups of normally developing children were studied to determine when parsing decisions are made and how linguistic knowledge affects parsing. Children showed very good sensitivity to grammatical violations, although at somewhat lower levels than those reported for college-age students (Wulfeck, Bates, & Capasso, 1991). Sensitivity results also revealed that both groups of children were better at detecting violations created by permuting words in a sentence than at recognizing errors of morphological selection—a finding that has been observed in adults with Broca’s aphasia (Wulfeck & Bates, 1991). Since college students show ceiling performance in their sensitivity to both types of violations, the present study reveals developmental changes in sensitivity to different aspects of morphology during the elementary school years. Although older children processed violations more quickly overall, both groups of children demonstrated very rapid integration of information during sentence processing. Decision time results also indicated that greater sensitivity to word order violations seemed to enhance childrens’ ability to take advantage of context across a sentence, resulting in faster decision times.

Acknowledgments
This research was supported in part by Grants 1 R29 DC00787 (NIDCD) (Grammatical Processing Abilities in Language Disorders) and NS22343 (NINDS) (Center for the Study of the Neurological Basis of Language), and through a seed money grant from the San Diego Children’s Hospital Research Center. I am grateful to the children and their parents who gave so willingly of their time. I am also grateful to Elizabeth Bates for her advice throughout this project; to Brian MacWhinney, Joey Garon, and Larry Juarez for technical and programming support; to research assistants Janelle Jures and Robin Baron; and to three anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments on an earlier draft of this manuscript.
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