Priming young children towards abstract grammatical structure.
Item statusRestricted Access
Falsone, Maria L.
Children learn language at a very young age without structured and planned help. To understand this language process, research into how children represent and produce grammar is necessary. This thesis examines whether, when learning their native language, children have the same abstract representation of grammar, building on the syntactic priming used in Bock and Loebell’s 1990 paper, one of the few that has recently focused on children. To make the children describe cards in a simple but captivating way for them, the task was based on the traditional ‘snap’ game of cards played alone with the researcher. The game would be started by the researcher, and their cards included four different types of grammatical priming throughout the game. These were active (a lion squashing a doctor), passive (a doctor being squashed by a lion), locative (a witch sleeping near a cat) and baseline (a witch sleeping) which were also used for the snap cards. The researcher and the child would describe their pictures to each other, with several snaps in between. The children also sat a British Picture Vocabulary Scale test to make sure all language vocabulary was roughly of the same standard. Overall, children were more likely to use the same structure in their responses as the experimenter than to use different structure. This is also known as syntactic priming, (Bock, 1986). However, the locative priming from the researcher did not affect the child. Therefore, this result means that children do have certain grammatical attributes which are independent from content, but they are not all clear-cut.