Where are the cookies? Two- and three-year-olds use number-marked verbs to anticipate upcoming nouns

Cynthia Lukyanenko, Cynthia Fisher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

We tested toddlers' and adults' predictive use of English subject-verb agreement. Participants saw pairs of pictures differing in number and kind (e.g., one apple, two cookies), and heard sentences with a target noun naming one of the pictures. The target noun was the subject of a preceding agreeing verb in informative trials (e.g., Where are the good cookies?), but not in uninformative trials (Do you see the good cookies?). In Experiment 1, 3-year-olds and adults were faster and more likely to shift their gaze from distractor to target upon hearing an informative agreeing verb. In Experiment 2, 2.5-year-olds were faster to shift their gaze from distractor to target in response to the noun in informative trials, and were more likely to be fixating the target already at noun onset. Thus, toddlers used agreeing verbs to predict number features of an upcoming noun. These data provide strong new evidence for the broad scope of predictive processing in online language comprehension.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)349-370
Number of pages22
JournalCognition
Volume146
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016

Keywords

  • Agreement
  • Comprehension
  • Grammatical number
  • Language acquisition
  • Syntax acquisition
  • Visual world

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Cognitive Neuroscience

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