Evidence of Sensitivity to Structural Contrasts in the Literature on Children's Language Comprehension This paper reviews the developmental literature on grammatical knowledge in language comprehension in the preschool years from the perspective of sensitivity to structural contrasts. This concept differs from mastery of individual grammatical structures. Structural sensitivity focuses on increments of partial grammatical knowledge that can be observed in distinctive response patterns ... Research Article
Research Article  |   December 01, 1996
Evidence of Sensitivity to Structural Contrasts in the Literature on Children's Language Comprehension
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Ann Sutton
    School of Communication sciences and Lisorders McGill University Montreal, Quebec, Canada
  • Contact author: Ann Sutton, School of Communication Sciences and Disorders, McGill University, 1266 Pine Avenue West, Montreal, Quebec, Canada H3G 1A8. Email: ann@physics.mcgill.ca
Article Information
Development / Speech, Voice & Prosody / Language / Research Articles
Research Article   |   December 01, 1996
Evidence of Sensitivity to Structural Contrasts in the Literature on Children's Language Comprehension
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, December 1996, Vol. 39, 1304-1314. doi:10.1044/jshr.3906.1304
History: Received July 20, 1995 , Accepted June 14, 1996
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, December 1996, Vol. 39, 1304-1314. doi:10.1044/jshr.3906.1304
History: Received July 20, 1995; Accepted June 14, 1996

This paper reviews the developmental literature on grammatical knowledge in language comprehension in the preschool years from the perspective of sensitivity to structural contrasts. This concept differs from mastery of individual grammatical structures. Structural sensitivity focuses on increments of partial grammatical knowledge that can be observed in distinctive response patterns to contrasting grammatical structures. Direct evidence of sensitivity to structural contrasts is found in comprehension studies that measured differential responding. Indirect evidence of sensitivity can also be discovered by detailed examination of the data presented in several additional studies. The evidence suggests that there may be a developmental sequence of increasing sensitivity with age to finer distinctions and to more detailed aspects of grammatical structure. The notion of sensitivity to structural contrasts has implications for future research.

Acknowledgments
This work was supported by a doctoral fellowship from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. The author wishes to acknowledge Martha Crago, Rachel Mayberry, and, in particular, Tanya Gallagher, for their feedback on earlier drafts. The paper also benefited considerably from constructive comments made during the review process.
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