Sentence-Position Effects on Children’s Perception and Production of English Third Person Singular –s PurposeTwo-year-olds produce third person singular –s more accurately on verbs in sentence-final position as compared with verbs in sentence-medial position. This study was designed to determine whether these sentence-position effects can be explained by perceptual factors.MethodFor this purpose, the authors compared 22- and 27-month-olds' perception and elicited production of third ... Article
Article  |   February 01, 2011
Sentence-Position Effects on Children’s Perception and Production of English Third Person Singular –s
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Megha Sundara
    University of California, Los Angeles
  • Katherine Demuth
    Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia
  • Patricia K. Kuhl
    University of Washington, Seattle
  • Contact author: Megha Sundara, Department of Linguistics, University of California, Los Angeles, 3125 Campbell Hall, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1543. E-mail: megha.sundara@humnet.ucla.edu.
Article Information
Development / Hearing & Speech Perception / Acoustics / Attention, Memory & Executive Functions / Speech, Voice & Prosody / Language
Article   |   February 01, 2011
Sentence-Position Effects on Children’s Perception and Production of English Third Person Singular –s
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, February 2011, Vol. 54, 55-71. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2010/10-0056)
History: Received February 24, 2010 , Accepted May 19, 2010
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, February 2011, Vol. 54, 55-71. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2010/10-0056)
History: Received February 24, 2010; Accepted May 19, 2010
Web of Science® Times Cited: 25

PurposeTwo-year-olds produce third person singular –s more accurately on verbs in sentence-final position as compared with verbs in sentence-medial position. This study was designed to determine whether these sentence-position effects can be explained by perceptual factors.

MethodFor this purpose, the authors compared 22- and 27-month-olds' perception and elicited production of third person singular –s in sentence-medial versus-final position. The authors assessed perception by measuring looking/listening times to a 1-screen display of a cartoon paired with a grammatical versus an ungrammatical sentence (e.g., She eatsnow vs. She eatnow).

ResultsChildren at both ages demonstrated sensitivity to the presence/absence of this inflectional morpheme in sentence-final, but not sentence-medial, position. Children were also more accurate at producing third person singular –s sentence finally, and production accuracy was predicted by vocabulary measures as well as by performance on the perception task.

ConclusionsThese results indicate that children’s more accurate production of third person singular –s in sentence-final position cannot be explained by articulatory factors alone but that perceptual factors play an important role in accounting for early patterns of production. The findings also indicate that perception and production of inflectional morphemes may be more closely related than previously thought.

Acknowledgments
This work was supported, in part, by National Institutes of Health Grants R01MH60922 (principal investigator, Katherine Demuth; co-principal investigator, Mark Johnson) and R01HD057606 (principal investigator, Katherine Demuth; principal investigator, Stefanie Shattuck-Hufnagel); National Science Foundation Grant 0354453 (principal investigator, John Bransford; co-principal investigator, Patricia Kuhl); and University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) start-up funds awarded to Megha Sundara.
Part of the present article was presented at the 33rd Boston University Conference on Language Development in November 2008. We thank that audience and Jae Yung Song for helpful comments and suggestions. Many thanks also to Karen Evans, Mathew Masapollo, and Rachel Theodore of the Child Language Lab at Brown University; Hillary Fix, Denise Padden, Kathryn Schoolcraft, and Robert Shields at the Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences (I-LABS), University of Washington; and Kristi Hendrickson and Adrienne Scutellaro at the Language Acquisition Lab at UCLA. Finally, we thank the parents and children who participated in the research.
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