The Processing and Interpretation of Verb Phrase Ellipsis Constructions by Children at Normal and Slowed Speech Rates PurposeTo examine children's comprehension of verb phrase (VP) ellipsis constructions in light of their automatic, online structural processing abilities and conscious, metalinguistic reflective skill.MethodForty-two children ages 5 through 12 years listened to VP ellipsis constructions involving the strict/sloppy ambiguity (e.g., “The janitor untangled himself from the rope and the fireman ... Article
Article  |   June 01, 2012
The Processing and Interpretation of Verb Phrase Ellipsis Constructions by Children at Normal and Slowed Speech Rates
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Sarah M. Callahan
    School of Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences, San Diego State University
  • Matthew Walenski
    School of Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences, San Diego State University
  • Tracy Love
    School of Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences, San Diego State University
  • Correspondence to Tracy Love: tlove@mail.sdsu.edu
  • Editor: Janna Oetting
    Editor: Janna Oetting×
  • Associate Editor: Pamela Hadley
    Associate Editor: Pamela Hadley×
Article Information
Language
Article   |   June 01, 2012
The Processing and Interpretation of Verb Phrase Ellipsis Constructions by Children at Normal and Slowed Speech Rates
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, June 2012, Vol. 55, 710-725. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2011/10-0281)
History: Received October 9, 2010 , Revised April 18, 2011 , Accepted October 2, 2011
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, June 2012, Vol. 55, 710-725. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2011/10-0281)
History: Received October 9, 2010; Revised April 18, 2011; Accepted October 2, 2011
Web of Science® Times Cited: 2

PurposeTo examine children's comprehension of verb phrase (VP) ellipsis constructions in light of their automatic, online structural processing abilities and conscious, metalinguistic reflective skill.

MethodForty-two children ages 5 through 12 years listened to VP ellipsis constructions involving the strict/sloppy ambiguity (e.g., “The janitor untangled himself from the rope and the fireman in the elementary school did too after the accident.”) in which the ellipsis phrase (“did too”) had 2 interpretations: (a) strict (“untangled the janitor”) and (b) sloppy (“untangled the fireman”). We examined these sentences at a normal speech rate with an online cross-modal picture priming task (n = 14) and an offline sentence–picture matching task (n = 11). Both tasks were also given with slowed speech input (n = 17).

ResultsChildren showed priming for both the strict and sloppy interpretations at a normal speech rate but only for the strict interpretation with slowed input. Offline, children displayed an adultlike preference for the sloppy interpretation with normal-rate input but a divergent pattern with slowed speech.

ConclusionsOur results suggest that children and adults rely on a hybrid syntax-discourse model for the online comprehension and offline interpretation of VP ellipsis constructions. This model incorporates a temporally sensitive syntactic process of VP reconstruction (disrupted with slow input) and a temporally protracted discourse effect attributed to parallelism (preserved with slow input).

Acknowledgments
This research was funded by National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders Grant R01-DC03885 and is dedicated to the memory of David Swinney.
We thank Liane Wardlow Lane, Maxwell Moholy, and especially Brianne Bricker-Jones for their assistance with multiple aspects of this study.
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