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Children’s judgements of agreeing and non-agreeing sentences Neufeld, Werner 1977

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CHILDREN'S JUDGMENTS OF AGREEING AND NON-AGREEING SENTENCES by  WERNER NEUFELD Honours B.A., Brock U n i v e r s i t y , 1973  A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS " ... .'  in  THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES (Department of Psychology)  We accept t h i s t h e s i s as conforming to t h e r e q u i r e d s t a n d a r d  THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA May, 1977  ('cY Werner Neufeld, 1977  In  presenting  this  an a d v a n c e d  degree  the  shall  I  Library  f u r t h e r agree  for  scholarly  by h i s of  this  written  thesis at  it  purposes  for  freely  permission may  representatives. thesis  partial  the U n i v e r s i t y  make that  in  is  financial  of  British  Columbia,  British  by  for  gain  Columbia  shall  the  that  not  requirements I  agree  r e f e r e n c e and copying  t h e Head o f  understood  Depa rtment  2075 Wesbrook P l a c e V a n c o u v e r , Canada V6T 1 W 5  of  for extensive  permission.  The U n i v e r s i t y  of  available  be g r a n t e d  It  fulfilment  of  this  be a l l o w e d  or  that  study. thesis  my D e p a r t m e n t  copying  for  or  publication  without  my  ii ABSTRACT  In  E n g l i s h number agreement occurs between the s u r f a c e s u b j e c t and  the v e r b of a sentence. to  !  L o g i c a l l y , the c h i l d must perform two o p e r a t i o n s  determine whether t h e s e l e x i c a l  items agree.  The  c h i l d must  first  i d e n t i f y the s u r f a c e s u b j e c t and t h e v e r b , and s e c o n d l y determine whether the number f e a t u r e s of t h e s e items agree. the f i r s t second.  of t h e s e o p e r a t i o n s e a r l i e r  C h i l d r e n are a b l e t o perform  than they a r e a b l e to perform the  To perform the second o p e r a t i o n , the c h i l d must a n a l y z e the  rela-  t i o n between the number f e a t u r e s of t h e s e items. The h y p o t h e s i s was  t e s t e d t h a t c h i l d r e n w i l l be a b l e to d i s c r i m i n a t e  between a g r e e i n g and non-agreeing  sentences when they are a b l e t o a n a l y z e  the r e l a t i o n between t h e number f e a t u r e s of l e x i c a l  items i n a sentence.  C h i l d r e n were asked to judge the a c c e p t a b i l i t y of v a r i o u s s e n t e n c e s . p r e d i c t i o n s were made.  I f t h i s h y p o t h e s i s i s c o r r e c t , c h i l d r e n should be  a b l e t o d i s c r i m i n a t e between a g r e e i n g and non-agreeing first  Two  sentences at t h e  p o i n t they are a b l e t o d e r i v e i n f o r m a t i o n by a n a l y z i n g the  between the number f e a t u r e s of l e x i c a l  items.  Secondly,  relation  i f t h e p o i n t when  c h i l d r e n can d i s c r i m i n a t e between a g r e e i n g and non-agreeing  sentences i s  c o n t i n g e n t upon the a c q u i s i t i o n of r u l e s f o r a n a l y z i n g the r e l a t i o n between t h e number f e a t u r e s of l e x i c a l  items, sentence s t r u c t u r e s h o u l d not  t h e p o i n t a t which c h i l d r e n are a b l e t o do  so.  N e i t h e r of t h e s e p r e d i c t i o n s were c o n f i r m e d , s u g g e s t i n g t h a t hypothesis  is incorrect.  affect  this  Ss' were a b l e to decode semantic i n f o r m a t i o n  e a r l i e r than t h e y were a b l e to decode agreement, even though b o t h k i n d s of  i n f o r m a t i o n are i n t r o d u c e d by the r e l a t i o n between the number f e a t u r e s  of  lexical  items.  Ss'  judgements of sentences a l s o  indicated that  sentence  s t r u c t u r e does a f f e c t the p o i n t a t which c h i l d r e n a r e a b l e to d i s c r i m i n a t e  iii between agreeing and non-agreeing sentences. It was suggested that the fact that agreement is a syntactic r u l e , as opposed to a semantic one, affects or determines the point when children are able to discriminate between agreeing and non-agreeing sentences.  It  was also suggested that sentence structure may act to constrain the a c c e s s i b i l i t y of i n f l e c t i o n a l information in a sentence.  It was suggested  that these factors must be taken into account i n a processing model of how children decode agreement.  TABLE OF CONTENTS  T a b l e of  Contents  L i s t of T a b l e s Abstract  iv v ii  Introduction  1  Method  9  Results  12  Discuss ion  17  Bibliography  24  Appendix  26  I  LIST OF TABLES  Number I  -  Mean Number of Sentences Judged to Sound " R i g h t " as a F u n c t i o n Sentence-Type, Semantic W e l l Formedness and S y n t a c t i c W e l l Formedness (Agreement)  1  Introduction Norman's (1973) model of q u e s t i o n i n g - a n s w e r i n g process of answering thought  t o be.  has  suggested, t h a t t h e  q u e s t i o n s i s more complex t h a n . i t was p r e v i o u s l y  T r a d i t i o n a l l y , Norman s t a t e s , models of  have assumed t h a t t h i s  question-answering  process c o n s i s t s of r e t r i e v i n g the r e l e v a n t inform-  a t i o n from memory, and.then r e s p o n d i n g w i t h the a p p r o p r i a t e answer.  The  a l g o r i t h m f o r t h i s process would be as f o l l o w s : (i)  s e a r c h memory f o r t h e s t r u c t u r e e q u i v a l e n t t o the q u e s t i o n e d  (ii)  item  i f s e a r c h i s s u c c e s s f u l , respond  w i t h the a p p r o p r i a t e  answer (iii)  i f s e a r c h i s not s u c c e s s f u l , respond,  " I don't know."  Norman suggests t h a t t h i s model o v e r s i m p l i f i e s t h e a c t u a l process of answering  questions.  even bother  In answering  some q u e s t i o n s ,. he s t a t e s , people do  searching.memory f o r t h e r e l e v a n t i n f o r m a t i o n .  One  not  example of  such a q u e s t i o n i s : (1)  What i s the telephone number, of C h a r l e s  Dickens,  the n o v e l i s t ? If  people do use t h e p r o c e s s i n g a l g o r i t h m s t a t e d above t o answer q u e s t i o n s ,  they should respond  t o t h i s q u e s t i o n by s e a r c h i n g memory f i l e s f o r an  a t i o n between C h a r l e s Dickens association w i l l  and  a telephone number.  e x i s t , . people should respond  People do not,. however, respond  i n t h i s way.  Because no  by. s a y i n g " I don't  associ-  such know."  They c l a i m , c o n v e r s e l y , not  even to bother t o s e a r c h f o r an answer,.and simply r e j e c t t h e q u e s t i o n as illegitimate . Norman s t a t e s t h a t the way  i n wmich people respond  to questions  like  (1) i n d i c a t e s t h a t a l a r g e amount of p r e p r o c e s s i n g occurs b e f o r e a s e a r c h  2s.  of memory i s made. suggests t h a t people  The way  i n which people respond  i n i t i a l l y determine,  the q u e s t i o n i s l e g i t i m a t e . memory i s made.  to such q u e s t i o n s  among other  things,.whether  I f the q u e s t i o n i s l e g i t i m a t e , a s e a r c h of  I f i t i s n o t , no s e a r c h i s i n i t i a t e d .  The e s s e n t i a l c h a r a c t e r i s t i c of Norman's model of i s t h a t the p r o c e s s i n g of q u e s t i o n s occurs T h i s assumption 1973;  processed  i n s e q u e n t i a l steps or s t a g e s .  i s shared by other r e s e a r c h e r s (e.g., Anderson & Bower,  Smith,. Shoben & R i p s , 1974).  linguistic  question-answering  information i s accessed i n discrete steps.  has become most important  Anderson and Bower emphasize t h a t i n a p a r t i c u l a r o r d e r , and t h a t  i t is  Perhaps t h e a r e a i n which a stage model  i s t h a t of semantic memory.  Smith, Shoben andi  R i p s use a stage model t o account f o r the f i n d i n g t h a t the amount of n e c e s s a r y to d i s c o n f i r m an anomolous sentence is  time  (e.g., A l l b i r d s are c h a i r s )  l e s s than the amount of time n e c e s s a r y t o c o n f i r m . a non-anomolous  sentence.  T h i s f i n d i n g cannot be accounted  o u t l i n e d above.  That model p r e d i c t s t h a t the amount of time n e c e s s a r y t o  c o n f i r m a sentence w i l l , , on the whole, be n e c e s s a r y t o d i s c o n f i r m a sentence. people seem to make a r a p i d presented  f o r by the p r o c e s s i n g a l g o r i t h m  l e s s than the amount of  Smith, Shoben and Rips suggest  i n i t i a l s e a r c h t o determine  i s anomolous, e t c .  processed  that  i f the i n f o r m a t i o n  I f i t i s anomolous, no s e a r c h of memory i s  made, t h e r e b y a c c o u n t i n g f o r the f i n d i n g mentioned above. assumption  time  of t h i s model, l i k e t h a t of Norman, i s t h a t  The  basic  information is  i n sequential stages.  Questions as to how  information i s i n f a c t  a p p l i e d t o t h e study of language  acquisition.  processed may The  s i n g l e most  also  be  important  r e a s o n f o r d o i n g so i s t h a t t h i s k i n d of a n a l y s i s may  c l a r i f y how  acquire l i n g u i s t i c r u l e s .  longer v i o l a t e s  T y p i c a l l y , when a c h i l d  no  children a  3.'  given l i n g u i s t i c r u l e ,  i t i s i n f e r r e d t h a t t h e c h i l d - h a s a c q u i r e d the  r u l e , or added i t t o t h e knowledge component Thus, speech comprehension,  (Kaplan, 1973)  of h i s grammar.  f o r example, i s thought t o c o n s i s t of an oper-  a t i o n whereby the input sentence i s compared a g a i n s t t h e r u l e s c o n t a i n e d i n the knowledge component of the c h i l d ' s grammar. "structural description" posing i t .  (Chomsky, 1965)  fact occurs.  is that  rules assign a  t o the sentence, t h e r e b y decom-  The shortcoming of t h i s approach, from.a  l o g i c a l p o i n t of view,  These  p r o c e s s i n g or  i t does not s p e c i f y how  psycho-  comprehension, i n  A l t h o u g h i t f o r m a l l y accounts f o r speech comprehension, i t  does not i n d i c a t e how  t h i s process a c t u a l l y takes p l a c e .  does not  the p r o c e s s i n g component  i n d i c a t e how  That  is,  it  (Kaplan) of the c h i l d ' s  grammar a p p l i e s the r u l e s c o n t a i n e d i n the knowledge component t o decompose sentences. The purpose of t h i s  study i s t o examine some of the parameters  a f f e c t the decoding of agreement by c h i l d r e n . a t i o n s must the c h i l d  which  In other words, what oper-  perform t o determine whether the s u b j e c t  and'the  v e r b of a sentence agree? In E n g l i s h number agreement o c c u r s between t h e s u r f a c e s u b j e c t the v e r b of a sentence.  I t i s i n t r o d u c e d by a  i n f l e c t i o n on the s u r f a c e s u b j e c t and the v e r b .  and  [±] p l u r a l morpheme or T h i s f e a t u r e on t h e  s u r f a c e s u b j e c t and the v e r b w i l l be r e f e r r e d t o as t h e i r number f e a t u r e . L o g i c a l l y , , t h e n , t h e c h i l d must perform two, o r d e r e d o p e r a t i o n s on a sentence t o decode agreement. ical  F i r s t , the c h i l d must determine which  item i n the sentence i s the s u r f a c e s u b j e c t , and which  i s the v e r b .  lexical  lexitem  Secondly, the c h i l d must a n a l y z e the r e l a t i o n between t h e  number f e a t u r e s of t h e s e items t o determine whether or not they agree. P r e v i o u s s t u d i e s have i n d i c a t e d t h a t c h i l d r e n , by about age  four,  4.  c o r r e c t l y mark or 'use' agreement i n t h e i r spontaneous and Wolfe four,  (1972) r e p o r t  speech.  t h a t the c h i l d r e n they observed, aged t h r e e t o  c o r r e c t l y marked agreement i n 94% of " o b l i g a t o r y  a l s o Brown, 1973).  Keeney  That  c o n t e x t s " (see  i s , they observed E n g l i s h agreement r u l e s i n  94% of those s e n t e n t i a l c o n t e x t s i n which the use of these r u l e s i s obligatory.  However, when t h e s e c h i l d r e n were presented w i t h v e r b s  and  w i t h sentences marked s i n g u l a r l y or p l u r a l l y , a n d w e r e i n s t r u c t e d t o point  to the p i c t u r e  depicted,  t h e c h i l d r e n performed  conclude t h a t  at only  chance l e v e l s .  and  the  inflection. of the two  operations that  agreement i s to i d e n t i f y the s u r f a c e Several  studies  suggest t h a t  (Brown & F r a s e r ,  and t h e v e r b of the  c h i l d r e n can i d e n t i f y t h e s e items  to three,  1964).  imitated  simple  English  Whereas t h e c h i l d r e n tended t o p r e s e r v e nouns, v e r b s  Fraser  spontaneous  report  speech.  suggest t h a t  t h a t t h i s was  From the s t a n d p o i n t of a d u l t  c h i l d r e n acquire  of a sentence  is unclear.  for this equally well.  children's  E n g l i s h , these  r u l e s f o r i d e n t i f y i n g t h e s e items  the c h i l d a c t u a l l y i d e n t i f i e s the s u r f a c e  and  inflectional affixes.  a l s o t r u e of the  than r u l e s governing the use of i n f l e c t i o n s ( M i l l e r , How  relatively  In the Brown and  a d j e c t i v e s , they tended t o omit, among other t h i n g s , Brown and  sentence.  they use or can i d e n t i f y i n f l e c -  1963; M i l l e r & E r v i n ,  study,, c h i l d r e n , aged two  sentences.  the c h i l d must perform t o decode  subject  e a r l y , or at l e a s t e a r l i e r t h a n the p o i n t  Fraser  Wolfe  spontaneous  than they comprehend the meaning of the s i n g u l a r  The f i r s t  tions  sentences  Keeney and  c h i l d r e n c o r r e c t l y mark agreement i n t h e i r  speech e a r l i e r plural  ( s i n g u l a r / p l u r a l ) which the v e r b s and the  findings earlier  1973).  subject  and the v e r b  There a r e s e v e r a l models,. however, which  The r u l e s r e q u i r e d  to i d e n t i f y the surface  account subject  5.  and t h e v e r b a r e r o u g h l y e q u i v a l e n t t o t h e phrase s t r u c t u r e r u l e s g e n e r a t i v e grammar, such as t h a t of Chomsky. suggested t h a t an augmented this  process.  in a  A l t e r n a t i v e l y , Kaplan has  t r a n s i t i o n network grammar can account f o r  In t h i s k i n d of grammar, l e x i c a l  items  i n a sentence a r e ;  a s s i g n e d f u n c t i o n a l names — i . e . , s u b j e c t , verb,, o b j e c t — b y means of s e q u e n t i a l " t r a n s i t i o n a r c s " which i n i t i a t e naming a c t i o n s .  Thus, t h e  c h i l d would i d e n t i f y t h e s u r f a c e s u b j e c t and t h e v e r b by means of a s s i g n i n g f u n c t i o n a l names t o t h e l e x i c a l  items i n a sentence.  The second o p e r a t i o n t h a t t h e c h i l d must  perform t o decode agreement  i s t o determine whether t h e number f e a t u r e s of t h e s u r f a c e s u b j e c t and t h e v e r b agree.  After  i d e n t i f y i n g t h e s u r f a c e s u b j e c t and t h e v e r b , t h e  c h i l d must determine whether or not t h e number f e a t u r e s of t h e s e agree.  items  To do so, t h e c h i l d must a n a l y z e t h e r e l a t i o n between t h e number  f e a t u r e s o f t h e s e items. When, t h e n , w i l l t h e c h i l d be a b l e t o decode agreement?  When w i l l  the c h i l d be a b l e t o d i s c r i m i n a t e between a g r e e i n g and non-agreeing sentences?  C h i l d r e n a r e a b l e , . a s mentioned above, t o i d e n t i f y t h e s u r f a c e  s u b j e c t and. t h e v e r b of a sentence r e l a t i v e l y e a r l y . t h e c h i l d must t h e s e items.  To decode agreement,  a l s o a n a l y z e t h e r e l a t i o n between t h e number f e a t u r e s of Thus, t h e s i m p l e s t h y p o t h e s i s i s t h a t c h i l d r e n w i l l be a b l e  to d i s c r i m i n a t e between a g r e e i n g and non-agreeing  sentences when they have  a c q u i r e d r u l e s f o r a n a l y z i n g t h e r e l a t i o n between t h e number f e a t u r e s o f lexical  items i n a sentence.  H e r e a f t e r , r u l e s f o r a n a l y z i n g the r e l a t i o n  between t h e number f e a t u r e s o f l e x i c a l to as R ( f o r r e l a t i o n )  items  i n a sentence w i l l be r e f e r r e d  rules.  If t h e a b i l i t y t o d i s c r i m i n a t e between a g r e e i n g and non-agreeing sentences  i s c o n t i n g e n t upon t h e a c q u i s i t i o n of R r u l e s , s e v e r a l  predictions  6.  follow.  The f i r s t  p r e d i c t i o n f o l l o w s d i r e c t l y from t h i s h y p o t h e s i s .  i s t h a t a t t h e p o i n t when c h i l d r e n demonstrate t h a t they can d e r i v e  It infor-  m a t i o n by a n a l y z i n g t h e r e l a t i o n between t h e number f e a t u r e s of l e x i c a l items,. they w i l l be a b l e t o decode agreement.  A l t e r n a t i v e l y , t h e k i n d of  i n f o r m a t i o n encoded by t h e r e l a t i o n between t h e number f e a t u r e s of l e x i c a l items may determine t h e developmental p o i n t a t which c h i l d r e n a r e a b l e t o decode i t . For example, agreement i s a s y n t a c t i c or a r b i t r a r y r e l a t i o n between c o n s t i t u e n t s , as opposed t o a semantic one.  I t i s possible that  the f a c t t h a t agreement i s an a r b i t r a r y r e l a t i o n between c o n s t i t u e n t s  may  determine when c h i l d r e n are a b l e t o decode i t . C h i l d r e n might be a b l e t o decode semantic i n f o r m a t i o n e a r l i e r than they a r e a b l e t o decode agreement because of t h e d i f f e r i n g s t a t u s of t h e s e k i n d s The  second p r e d i c t i o n t h a t can be t e s t e d  hypothesis. and  of  information.  i s a c o r o l l a r y , of t h i s  I f t h e p o i n t when c h i l d r e n can d i s c r i m i n a t e between  non-agreeing sentences i s c o n t i n g e n t  agreeing  s o l e l y upon t h e a c q u i s i t i o n of  R r u l e s , , i t f o l l o w s t h a t t h e a b i l i t y of c h i l d r e n t o do so w i l l not be a f f e c t e d by t h e s t r u c t u r e of t h e input sentence.  These p r e d i c t i o n s are  examined i n t u r n below. Regarding t h e f i r s t  p r e d i c t i o n , consider  (2)  Which bag a r e t h e apples i n ?  *  (3)  Which bag i s t h e a p p l e s  *  (4)  Which bags i s t h e apple i n ?  *  (5)  Which bags a r e t h e apple in?  the f o l l o w i n g sentences:  in?  In WH-questions such as t h e s e , t h e s u r f a c e s u b j e c t of t h e sentence i s t h e p o s t v e r b a l noun phrase, i . e . , " a p p l e s " ,  or " a p p l e " .  Thus, t h e number  f e a t u r e of t h e v e r b i s t o agree w i t h t h a t of t h e noun phrase f o l l o w i n g it.  In t h i s  sense sentence  (2) i s s y n t a c t i c a l l y w e l l - f o r m e d .  It is  a l s o s e m a n t l c a l l y w e l l - f o r m e d , and, hence grammatical. t h e v e r b does not agree w i t h the s u r f a c e s u b j e c t . t h e v e r b agrees Sentence  In sentence  The number f e a t u r e of  ( i n c o r r e c t l y ) w i t h t h a t of the o b j e c t noun phrase.  (3) i s , however, s e m a n t i c a l l y w e l l - f o r m e d .  Sentences  (4) and  (5) a r e b o t h , under normal c i r c u m s t a n c e s , s e m a n t i c a l l y i l l - f o r m e d anomolous.  (3)  or  Both v i o l a t e r e s t r i c t i o n s t h a t are e n t a i l e d by the p h y s i c a l  a t t r i b u t e s of the items "bags" and " a p p l e " . one apple cannot be  Under normal c i r c u m s t a n c e s ,  i n s e v e r a l d i f f e r e n t bags s i m u l t a n e o u s l y .  sentence<(4) the s u r f a c e s u b j e c t and t h e v e r b do agree w e l l - f o r m e d ) , whereas i n sentence  (5) they do not  But i n  (syntactically  (syntactically  ill-  formed) . To determine whether these sentences a r e s y n t a c t i c a l l y i . e . , whether the s u r f a c e s u b j e c t and the v e r b a g r e e — t h e  well-formed—  c h i l d must  a n a l y z e the r e l a t i o n between the number f e a t u r e s of these items.  To  determine whether t h e s e sentences are s e m a n t i c a l l y well-formed,. the  child  must a n a l y z e t h e r e l a t i o n between the number f e a t u r e s of t h e s u r f a c e subj e c t and the o b j e c t noun phrase.  I f the c h i l d d i d not a n a l y z e the  r e l a t i o n between the number f e a t u r e s of the r e l e v a n t  lexical  items i n  t h e s e s e n t e n c e s , the c h i l d would not be a b l e t o d e t e c t whether t h e s e sentences were s y n t a c t i c a l l y w e l l - or i l l - f o r m e d , or_ s e m a n t i c a l l y w e l l or i l l - f o r m e d .  Thus, both s y n t a c t i c  i n f o r m a t i o n . a n d semantic i n f o r m a t i o n  i s d e r i v e d by a n a l y z i n g the r e l a t i o n between the number f e a t u r e s o f l l e x i c a l items i n t h e s e sentences. S p e c i f i c a l l y , t h e n , the f i r s t children,  p r e d i c t i o n t o be t e s t e d  is that  i n j u d g i n g the a c c e p t a b i l i t y of t h e s e sentences, w i l l  nate between sentences  (2) and  at the same developmental  discrimi-  ( 3 ) , i . e . , decode s y n t a c t i c i n f o r m a t i o n ,  p o i n t when they d i s c r i m i n a t e between sentences  8.  (2) and  (3) v e r s u s  (4) and ( 5 ) , i . e . , decode semantic i n f o r m a t i o n .  the p o i n t when c h i l d r e n can decode agreement a c q u i s i t i o n of R r u l e s , they  i s contingent  If  upon t h e  should be a b l e t o do so at the f i r s t  point  at which they demonstrate t h a t they can d e r i v e i n f o r m a t i o n by a p p l y i n g these r u l e s .  Thus, c h i l d r e n should be a b l e to decode s y n t a c t i c  a t i o n at the same p o i n t or e a r l i e r information.  than they a r e a b l e to decode semantic  I f c h i l d r e n were a b l e to decode semantic  e a r l i e r than s y n t a c t i c i n f o r m a t i o n , agreement  i s not c o n t i n g e n t  inform-  i t would imply  information  t h a t t h e decoding of  upon the a c q u i s i t i o n of R r u l e s  alone.  The second p r e d i c t i o n t o be t e s t e d i s t h a t the s t r u c t u r e of t h e input sentence w i l l not a f f e c t t h e d e c o d i n g of agreement. when c h i l d r e n can decode agreement  i s contingent  upon the a c q u i s i t i o n of  R r u l e s , t h e a b i l i t y of c h i l d r e n to do so should s t r u c t u r e of a sentence.  If the point  not be a f f e c t e d by the  In other words, at the p o i n t when c h i l d r e n are  a b l e to d i s c r i m i n a t e between a g r e e i n g  and non-agreeing sentences,  a b i l i t y t o do so should not be r e s t r i c t e d  their  t o sentences o f , f o r example,  o n l y one s u r f a c e - o r d e r i n g . Consider  the f o l l o w i n g  (6)  Which monkey b i t e s t h e  (7)  Which monkeys b i t e t h e horse?  horses?  *(8)  Which monkey b i t e the  *(9)  Which monkeys b i t e s t h e horse?  Though a l l of these and  sentences:  horses?  sentences a r e s e m a n t i c a l l y w e l l - f o r m e d , o n l y  (7) a r e s y n t a c t i c a l l y w e l l - f o r m e d .  number f e a t u r e of t h e verb  agrees  In sentence (8) and  (9) t h e  ( i n c o r r e c t l y ) w i t h t h a t of t h e o b j e c t  noun phrase, r a t h e r than w i t h t h a t of the s u r f a c e In WH-questions  (6)  subject.  such as t h e s e , t h e s u r f a c e s u b j e c t precedes t h e v e r b  which i n t u r n precedes t h e o b j e c t noun phrase.  This ordering  preserves  a  what may be c a l l e d t h e " c a n o n i c a l " , , i . e . , base s t r u c t u r e , • form of E n g l i s h sentences  (Fodor, Bever & G a r r e t t , 1974).  f r e q u e n t l y used one i n E n g l i s h . preserve t h i s ordering the  surface, s u b j e c t  in their  This ordering  I n c o n t r a s t , sentences surface structures.  verb.  (2-5) do not  In these sentences,  follows the verb.  I f t h e decoding of agreement i s c o n t i n g e n t R r u l e s , i t should  i s a l s o t h e most  upon t h e a c q u i s i t i o n of  not be a f f e c t e d by t h e s u r f a c e  p o s i t i o n of s u b j e c t and  Thus, t h e second p r e d i c t i o n s t a t e s t h a t a t t h e p o i n t when c h i l d r e n  can d i s c r i m i n a t e between sentences  (6) and (7) v e r s u s  w i l l a l s o be a b l e t o d i s c r i m i n a t e between sentences  ( 8 ) and ( 9 ) , they  (2) and ( 3 ) , or v i c e -  versa. In summary, two p r e d i c t i o n s are t o be t e s t e d . the h y p o t h e s i s t h a t and  Each f o l l o w s  c h i l d r e n w i l l be a b l e t o d i s c r i m i n a t e  non-agreeing sentences when they have a c q u i r e d  from  between.agreeing  R rules.  The f i r s t  p r e d i c t i o n i s t h a t c h i l d r e n w i l l be a b l e t o decode agreement at t h e f i r s t p o i n t they demonstrate they can decode i n f o r m a t i o n The  by a p p l y i n g  these r u l e s .  second p r e d i c t i o n i s t h a t when c h i l d r e n a r e a b l e t o decode agreement,  t h e i r a b i l i t y t o do so w i l l not be r e s t r i c t e d t o sentences o f r o n l y one surface-ordering.  I f t h e p o i n t a t which c h i l d r e n can do so i s c o n t i n g e n t  upon t h e a c q u i s i t i o n of R r u l e s , t h e s t r u c t u r e of a sentence should not affect  this.  Method: To ability  t e s t t h e s e p r e d i c t i o n s c h i l d r e n were asked t o judge t h e a c c e p t (or g r a m m a t i c a l i t y ) o f a s e t of sentences s i m i l a r t o ones  C h i l d r e n were i n d i v i d u a l l y read  (2-9).  one sentence a t a t i m e , and were i n s t r u c t e d  t o respond by s a y i n g whether t h e sentence sounded " r i g h t " or "wrong".  id.  B e f o r e t e s t i n g began, t h e t a s k was the c h i l d was  read a sentence  i n two  s u r f a c e s u b j e c t and v e r b agreed  demonstrated  c o n t r a s t i n g forms:  (e.g., Which boy  school?).  The  t h a t the f i r s t or  "funny".  c h i l d was  t o l d t h a t the two  it  to. demonstrate  (e.g., " D a n i e l goes t o s c h o o l . " ) .  The  "wrong".  Ss' who  were a b l e t o judge  in go  different;  sounded "wrong"  experimenter.  t o the c h i l d t h a t  he  sentence, r a t h e r t h a n answer  c h i l d was  s e v e r a l more c o n t r a s t i n g sentences, and asked or  sentences sounded  S e v e r a l more c o n t r a s t s were t h e n made by the  to judge the g r a m m a t i c a l i t y of the. t e s t  first,  (e.g., *Which boy  one sounded " r i g h t " , and t h a t t h e second one  The purpose of these i n s t r u c t i o n s was was  i n the  First  goes t o s c h o o l ? ) ;  t h e second,. s u r f ace s u b j e c t and v e r b d i d not agree to  to the c h i l d .  then presented w i t h  i f t h e y sounded  "right"  ( c o r r e c t l y or i n c o r r e c t l y ) the  a c c e p t a b i l i t y • o f t h e s e s e n t e n c e s , i . e . , t r i e d to answer the q u e s t i o n s or did  not understand the t a s k , were e l i m i n a t e d f r o m . f u r t h e r t e s t i n g .  (Three  c h i l d r e n , age f i v e , were e l i m i n a t e d f o r t h i s r e a s o n ) . To t e s t t h e f i r s t s i m i l a r t o sentences  p r e d i c t i o n Ss' were presented w i t h 16 sentences ;  (2-5) above ( C f . Appendix I ) .  t h e s u r f a c e s u b j e c t was  the p o s t v e r b a l noun phrase.  c a l l e d Type I I s e n t e n c e s .  sentences  These sentences  are  H a l f of t h e s e sentences were s e m a n t i c a l l y w e l l -  formed, and h a l f were s e m a n t i c a l l y i l l - f o r m e d . w e l l - f o r m e d and t h e i l l - f o r m e d agreed.  In a l l of t h e s e  In h a l f of the s e m a n t i c a l l y  sentences, t h e s u r f a c e s u b j e c t and t h e v e r b  In t h e other h a l f , the number f e a t u r e of the v e r b agreed ( i n -  c o r r e c t l y ) w i t h t h a t of the o b j e c t noun phrase, r a t h e r than w i t h t h a t of the s u r f a c e s u b j e c t .  A l l test  sentences were c o n s t r u c t e d so t h a t  number f e a t u r e of t h e s u r f a c e s u b j e c t and the o b j e c t noun phrase  the differed  from each o t h e r . To t e s t the second  p r e d i c t i o n Ss' were a l s o presented w i t h e i g h t  11.  sentences s i m i l a r t o sentences s u r f a c e s u b j e c t was Type I sentences.  (6-9).  In a l l of t h e s e sentences  the p r e v e r b a l noun phrase.  the  These sentences a r e  Each of t h e s e sentences was  s e m a n t i c a l l y well-formed.  In h a l f the s u r f a c e s u b j e c t and the v e r b agreed  ( s y n t a c t i c a l l y well-formed);  i n t h e other h a l f the s u r f a c e s u b j e c t and t h e v e r b d i d not agree cally  ill-formed).  called  (syntacti-  L i k e the Type I I s e n t e n c e s , a l l sentences were  c o n s t r u c t e d so t h a t the number f e a t u r e of the s u r f a c e s u b j e c t and o b j e c t noun phrase d i f f e r e d from each o t h e r .  the  Thus, i n h a l f of the syn-  t a c t i c a l l y well-formed and the i l l - f o r m e d s e n t e n c e s , the s u r f a c e s u b j e c t was  s i n g u l a r and the o b j e c t was  s u b j e c t was  p l u r a l and the o b j e c t was  Each c h i l d was grammatical  plural.  In t h e other h a l f , the s u r f a c e  singular.  a l s o presented w i t h e i g h t sentences  word order was  (Thus, each c h i l d was  d e s t r o y e d (e.g., * B i r d - w h i c h snakes the  presented w i t h 32 sentences  i n c l u d i n g t h e s e sentences was  in all.)  r e s p o n d i n g t o them as p r o p o s i t i o n s .  could  S i n c e the c h i l d was  t o judge the  sentences, r e g a r d l e s s of t h e i r  were unable t o c o r r e c t l y  propositional  sentences on the b a s i s  g r a m m a t i c a l i t y , and were e l i m i n a t e d from f u r t h e r t e s t i n g .  were e l i m i n a t e d f o r t h i s reason. discriminate  (i.e.,  A l l Ss' were a b l e t o  No  Ss'  correctly  i n the a p p r o p r i a t e d i r e c t i o n ) between these  and Type I sentences, i . e . , ones i n which grammatical preserved  Children,  judge the a c c e p t a b i l i t y of t h e s e s e n t e n c e s ,  were i n f e r r e d t o be unable t o judge the other t e s t of t h e i r  judge  g r a m m a t i c a l i t y , as opposed t o  c o n t e n t , a measure of the c h i l d ' s a b i l i t y to do so i s n e c e s s a r y . who  watches?).  The r e a s o n f o r  t o determine whether the c h i l d  the t e s t sentences on the b a s i s of t h e i r  g r a m m a t i c a l i t y of the t e s t  i n which  word order  sentences was  (F (1,57) = 117.90 , p_<.001).  To counter the p o s s i b l e  i n f l u e n c e of a s e t e f f e c t , no noun was  used  12.  more t h a n once i n the t e s t s e n t e n c e s . drawn from a l i s t  of common c o n t a i n e r s and  bananas, o r a n g e s ) . of  Nouns i n the Type I I sentences items  (e.g., j a r t  wtre  basket,  Nouns i n t h e Type I sentences were drawn from a  list  animals whose names c h i l d r e n were assumed t o be f a m i l i a r w i t h ( e . g . ,  t i g e r , b i r d , monkey).  The v e r b i n the Type I I sentences was  or  p l u r a l , form of "be".  The v e r b s  or  p l u r a l forms of " b i t e " , "chase", "hear" and "watch".  i n the Type I sentences were the  b a l a n c e d . a c r o s s the Type I sentences. sentences was  randomized  chosen from c h i l d r e n aged 5;0  10;0  t o 11;6.  respectively.  Order  to 8;6.  These verbs were  of p r e s e n t a t i o n of the t e s t  t o 6;6.  levels.  The youngest  A second  group was  The o l d e s t group was  The mean age of each group was The youngest  f e m a l e s , the second  singular  a c r o s s Ss'.  Ss' were 60 c h i l d r e n at t h r e e age  c h i l d r e n aged 7;0  the s i n g u l a r  group  chosen  was  from  chosen from c h i l d r e n aged  6;0;14, 8;0;3,. and  group c o n s i s t e d of e i g h t males and  10;10;6.  twelve  group of n i n e males and e l e v e n f e m a l e s , and  the  o l d e s t group of s i x males a n d : f o u r t e e n f e m a l e s . All  Ss' spoke E n g l i s h as a f i r s t  language.  The  socio-economic  s t a t u s of the c h i l d r e n ranged from lower-middle t o m i d d l e  class.  Results: . Ss' judgments of the t e s t sentences are presented i n T a b l e I . values to  i n T a b l e I r e p r e s e n t the mean number of sentences t h a t Ss'  The judged  sound " r i g h t . u  As can be seen i n T a b l e I , one c e l l  i n the d e s i g n i s m i s s i n g .  were presented w i t h s e m a n t i c a l l y - w e l l - f o r m e d and  Ss'  i l l - f o r m e d Type I I  sentences, but o n l y w i t h s e m a n t i c a l l y well-formed Type I sentences. reason f o r t h i s  i s as f o l l o w s .  First,  s e m a n t i c a l l y i l l - f o r m e d Type I  sentences cannot be c o n s t r u c t e d by permuting  the number f e a t u r e s of  The  TABLE I  Mean Number of Sentences Judged t o Sound " R i g h t " as a F u n c t i o n of Sentence-Type, Semantic Well-Formedness and S y n t a c t i c Well-Formedness (Agreement)*  Type I I  Type I  Semantically Ill-formed  Well-formed  S e m a n t i c a l l y Well-formed  Syntactically Well-formed (+Agreement)  Syntactically Ill-formed (-Agreement)  Syntactically Well-formed (+Agreement)  Syntactically Ill-formed (-Agreement)  Age I (5;0 - 6;6)  1.85  1.65  2.75  2.90  2.80  2.20  Age I I (7;0 - 8;6)  2.30  1.05  3.55  3.15  1.25  1.55  Age I I I (10;0 - 11;6)  3.05  ,70  3.20  3.10  65  1.25  Semantically  * C h i l d r e n were p r e s e n t e d w i t h four sentences o f each k i n d .  Syntactically Well-formed (+Agreement)  Syntactically Ill-formed (-Agreement)  lexical  items i n them.  between c h i l d r e n ' s  Thus, i n p r i n c i p l e no comparison i s p o s s i b l e  judgments of such sentences and t h e t e s t  sentences.  Secondly, even i f i t were p o s s i b l e t o c o n s t r u c t s e m a n t i c a l l y i l l - f o r m e d Type I sentences children's  i n t h i s manner, no p r e d i c t i o n s were made r e g a r d i n g  judgments o f them.  S i n c e one c e l l  i s m i s s i n g , two s e p a r a t e a n a l y s e s o f the c h i l d r e n ' s  judgments of t h e t e s t p r e d i c t i o n s made.  sentences were made, c o r r e s p o n d i n g t o the two  S i n c e two a n a l y s e s were made, i t i s t o be c a u t i o n e d  t h a t some of t h e r e s u l t s of t h e s e a n a l y s e s a r e , i n a s t a t i s t i c a l redundant. relatively  The r e s u l t s a r e , however, q u i t e s t r o n g and i n t h i s  sense,  sense  straightforward.  The f i r s t  p r e d i c t i o n was t h a t c h i l d r e n w i l l be a b l e t o decode agree-  ment a t t h e p o i n t when they have a c q u i r e d R r u l e s .  Thus, a t t h e p o i n t  when c h i l d r e n demonstrate t h a t they can d e r i v e i n f o r m a t i o n by a p p l y i n g t h e s e r u l e s , they s h o u l d , i n j u d g i n g t h e t e s t d i s c r i m i n a t e between a g r e e i n g and non-agreeing  s e n t e n c e s , a l s o be a b l e t o sentences.  To t e s t  this  p r e d i c t i o n , Ss' judgments of s e m a n t i c a l l y well-formed and i l l - f o r m e d a g r e e i n g and non-agreeing  (Type I I ) sentences were compared, i n ' a 3x2x2  f a c t o r i a l d e s i g n (AGE=three l e v e l s , SEMANTIC=two levels).  levels,  AGREEMENT=two  I f t h i s p r e d i c t i o n i s c o r r e c t , Ss', i n judging the t e s t  s e n t e n c e s , should d i s c r i m i n a t e between s e m a n t i c a l l y well-formed a g r e e i n g and.non-agreeing sentences a t t h e same p o i n t or e a r l i e r  ( i n terms of AGE  l e v e l ) t h a n they d i s c r i m i n a t e between s e m a n t i c a l l y well-formed and semantically  ill-formed  sentences.  I f , on t h e o t h e r hand, Ss' were a b l e  t o d i s c r i m i n a t e between s e m a n t i c a l l y well-formed: and s e m a n t i c a l l y i l l formed sentences e a r l i e r t h a n they were a b l e t o d i s c r i m i n a t e between s e m a n t i c a l l y well-formed a g r e e i n g and non-agreeing  s e n t e n c e s , i t would  15.  suggest t h a t point  this prediction  when c h i l d r e n  T h i s would suggest t h a t t h e  can decode agreement i s a f f e c t e d  agreement i s a s y n t a c t i c The  is incorrect.  by t h e f a c t  r u l e , as opposed t o a semantic one.  main e f f e c t f o r t h e SEMANTIC factor- was s i g n i f i c a n t  141.48, p_ <.001).  The e f f e c t s of t h i s f a c t o r  The main e f f e c t f o r AGE was a l s o  p_ <.05).  Both e f f e c t s a r e q u a l i f i e d by t h e AGE x SEMANTIC  (F(2 ,57)=21.97 , _p, <.001). youngest c h i l d r e n ,  Analysis  p <1).  (£(2,57)=3.92, interaction  i n t e r a c t i o n revealed  aged 5;0 t o 6;6, d i d not d i s c r i m i n a t e  s e m a n t i c a l l y well-formed and s e m a n t i c a l l y ( F ( l ,57) = 1.12,  significant  of t h i s  (F(l,57)=  are c l e a r l y evident i n  Table I.  the  that  ill-formed  that  between  (Type I I ) sentences  On t h e other hand, t h e two o l d e r  groups o f  c h i l d r e n d i d d e t e c t whether t h e Type I I sentences were s e m a n t i c a l l y formed or i l l - f o r m e d  ( F ( l ,57-)=40.29 , p <.001; F ( l , 5 7 ) = 51.29  S i g n i f i c a n t l y , no main e f f e c t f o r AGREEMENT was found nor  , p <.001).  (F(1,57) = .01,  was an i n t e r a c t i o n between AGREEMENT and t h e SEMANTIC f a c t o r  (F(l,57)=.69, p <1).  I f t h e p r e d i c t i o n made had been c o r r e c t ,  also non-significant  (F(2,57)=1.63, p <1), as was t h e t r i p l e  second p r e d i c t i o n  can d i s c r i m i n a t e  found  should  The i n t e r a c t i o n between AGREEMENT and AGE was  between AGREEMENT, AGE and t h e SEMANTIC f a c t o r The  p <1),  t h e AGREE-  MENT f a c t o r , or a t l e a s t t h e AGREEMENT x SEMANTIC i n t e r a c t i o n , have been s i g n i f i c a n t .  well-  that  interaction  (F(2,57)=3.04, p <1).  was made was t h a t  at the point  children  between a g r e e i n g and non-agreeing sentences,. t h e i r  a b i l i t y t o do so should not be r e s t r i c t e d t o sentences of o n l y one surface-ordering.  I f the point  when c h i l d r e n  can decode agreement i s  c o n t i n g e n t s o l e l y upon t h e a c q u i s i t i o n o f R r u l e s , t h e i r a b i l i t y t o do so  should not be a f f e c t e d  prediction,  by t h e s t r u c t u r e  Ss* judgments of ( s e m a n t i c a l l y  of a sentence.  To t e s t  this  well-formed) a g r e e i n g and  16.  non-agreeing Type I and Type I I sentences were compared, i n a 3x2x2 f a c t o r i a l d e s i g n (AGE=three l e v e l s , SENTENCE-TYPE=two l e v e l s , AGREEMENT= two  levels).  If this  p r e d i c t i o n i s c o r r e c t , t h e AGREEMENT main e f f e c t  s h o u l d be s i g n i f i c a n t .  Furthermore,  i f i t i s correct, the i n t e r a c t i o n  between SENTENCE-TYPE and AGREEMENT should not be s i g n i f i c a n t . The main e f f e c t f o r AGREEMENT was s i g n i f i c a n t By  itself  this  p<.001).  suggests t h a t t h e point when c h i l d r e n can decode agreement  i s not a f f e c t e d by t h e s t r u c t u r e of a sentence. f o r SENTENCE-TYPE was a l s o s i g n i f i c a n t the  (F(l,57)=38.40,  However, t h e main e f f e c t  ( F ( l , 5 7 ) = 107.04, j? <.001), as was  i n t e r a c t i o n between SENTENCE-TYPE and AGREEMENT _(F(1,57>)=23.21,  p <.001).  Analysis of t h i s  i n t e r a c t i o n revealed  t h a t Ss' were a b l e t o  d i s c r i m i n a t e between ( s e m a n t i c a l l y well-formed) a g r e e i n g and non-agreeing Type I sentences  (F(l,114)=20.03,  p <.001), but not between  well-formed) a g r e e i n g and non-agreeing Type I I sentences p <1). The main e f f e c t f o r AGE was n o n - s i g n i f i c a n t  (semantically  (F(l,114)=.17,  (F(2,57)=.85,  as was t h e i n t e r a c t i o n between AGE and SENTENCE-TYPE (F(2,57)=1.85, The AGE x AGREEMENT i n t e r a c t i o n was s i g n i f i c a n t Analysis of t h i s  i n t e r a c t i o n revealed.that  £ <1), p <1).  (F(2 ,57)=9.99, £ <.01).  t h e youngest  c h i l d r e n were not  a b l e t o d i s c r i m i n a t e between ( s e m a n t i c a l l y well-formed)  a g r e e i n g and non-  a g r e e i n g sentences  (F(1,57)=.01,  p <1).  C o n v e r s e l y , t h e two o l d e r  of c h i l d r e n were a b l e t o d i s c r i m i n a t e between ( s e m a n t i c a l l y a g r e e i n g and non-agreeing sentences p  <.001).  was  The t r i p l e  also s i g n i f i c a n t  (F(1,57)=9.10,  groups  well-formed)  p <.01; F(l,57)=20,07,  i n t e r a c t i o n between AGE, SENTENCE-TYPE and AGREEMENT (F(2,57) = 5.68, _p_ <.01).  i n d i c a t e d t h a t t h e youngest  Analysis  of t h i s i n t e r a c t i o n  c h i l d r e n were not a b l e t o d i s c r i m i n a t e between  ( s e m a n t i c a l l y well-formed) a g r e e i n g and non-agreeing Type I or Type I I sentences children,  (F(l,114)=.49, p <1; F(l,114)=.28,.D_ <1). Ss' aged  U n l i k e t h e youngest  7;0 t o 8;6 d i d d i s c r i m i n a t e between  (semantically-well-  17. formed) a g r e e i n g j> <.001).  and  non-agreeing Type I sentences  However, t h e s e c h i l d r e n were not a b l e to d i s c r i m i n a t e between  Type I I sentences of the same k i n d was  ( F ( l , 114) = 19.50 ,  (F(l,114)=1.99, p  a l s o t r u e of the o l d e s t Ss', aged 10;0  to  11;6.  < x  )«  T  h  i  pattern  s  Although they were  a b l e to d i s c r i m i n a t e between ( s e m a n t i c a l l y well-formed). a g r e e i n g agreeing  Type I sentences  (F(l,114)=69.43, _p <.001), t h e y were not  to d i s c r i m i n a t e between Type I I sentences of the  P  and  same k i n d  non-  able  (F(l,114)=.12,  <D.  Discuss ion: The  r e s u l t s of the f i r s t  made i s i n c o r r e c t .  a n a l y s i s suggest t h a t the f i r s t  S p e c i f i c a l l y , , they suggest t h a t the p o i n t at which  c h i l d r e n can decode agreement i s not R r u l e s alone. in  This  prediction  contingent  upon the a c q u i s i t i o n of  i s suggested by the f i n d i n g t h a t Ss'  aged 7;0  judging the t e s t s e n t e n c e s , d i s c r i m i n a t e d between s e m a n t i c a l l y  formed and  semantically  i l l - f o r m e d (Type I I ) s e n t e n c e s , but d i d  d i s c r i m i n a t e between s e m a n t i c a l l y wel1-formed; a g r e e i n g (Type I I ) ones.  Thus, at the p o i n t when Ss' were a b l e t o  between s e m a n t i c a l l y well-formed and s t i l l were not agreeing  and  and  to  8;6,  well-  not  non-agreeing discriminate  i l l - f o r m e d (Type I I ) s e n t e n c e s , they,  a b l e to d i s c r i m i n a t e between s e m a n t i c a l l y well-formed  non-agreeing  (Type I I ) ones.  T h i s suggests t h a t the p o i n t at which c h i l d r e n can decode i n t r o d u c e d by the r e l a t i o n between the number f e a t u r e s o f a f f e c t e d by the s t a t u s of the  lexical  items i s  i n f o r m a t i o n encoded, namely whether i t i s  s y n t a c t i c or semantic i n n a t u r e .  The  f a c t t h a t both k i n d s of  are d e r i v e d by the same o p e r a t i o n does not d e c o d i n g both k i n d s of  information  i n f o r m a t i o n at t h e  seem to r e s u l t  information  in children  same developmental p o i n t .  t h e p o i n t at which c h i l d r e n can decode agreement i s not  contingent  Thus, upon  18. t  the a c q u i s i t i o n of R r u l e s a l o n e .  At the p o i n t at which Ss'  demonstrated  t h a t they c o u l d d e r i v e i n f o r m a t i o n by a p p l y i n g t h e s e r u l e s , they c o u l d not decode agreement. p o i n t Ss* were s t i l l  still  The r e s u l t s o b t a i n e d suggest t h a t at t h i s  not a b l e to d e t e c t any d i f f e r e n c e s between  ( s e m a n t i c a l l y well-formed)  a g r e e i n g and non-agreeing Type I I sentences.  The f a c t t h a t agreement i s a s y n t a c t i c phenomenon, as opposed t o a semantic one, must i n some way  c o n s t r a i n the a p p l i c a t i o n of R r u l e s t o  a sentence.  /  The f a c t t h a t t h e a d u l t speaker w i l l sentences to be u n a c c e p t a b l e  judge s e m a n t i c a l l y i l l - f o r m e d  (or l e s s a c c e p t a b l e ) i m p l i e s t h a t d u r i n g t h e  process of sentence-decoding a person performs whether a sentence speaker w i l l  o p e r a t i o n s which  i s semantically well-formed.  determine  The f a c t t h a t the a d u l t  judge s e n t e n c e s , i n which s u r f a c e s u b j e c t and v e r b do not  agree, t o be u n a c c e p t a b l e i m p l i e s t h a t a person a l s o performs o p e r a t i o n s which determine whether a sentence  i s s y n t a c t i c a l l y well-formed.  i m p l i e s t h a t t h e a d u l t speaker a n a l y s e s every s e n t e n c e , be or  ungrammatical,  on each of t h e s e dimensions.  account f o r speech comprehension older  groups  In f a c t , such o p e r a t i o n s  of Ss' judgments of the Type I I t e s t  inflections, earlier  The  syntactic  inflections.  i n f o r m a t i o n , i s c o n s i s t e n t w i t h what  inform-  Siegler  (1976) c a l l s t h e "encoding h y p o t h e s i s " .  B r i e f l y , S i e g l e r suggests  younger c h i l d r e n encode s t i m u l i on fewer  dimensions  do.  that  i n f o r m a t i o n , i n t r o d u c e d by  The f i n d i n g t h a t t h e o l d e r Ss' were a b l e t o decode semantic a t i o n , but not s y n t a c t i c  two  sentences suggest  t h a n they a c q u i r e r u l e s f o r decoding  i n f o r m a t i o n , i n t r o d u c e d by  i t grammatical  or sentence decomposition.  c h i l d r e n a c q u i r e r u l e s f o r decoding semantic  This  He found t h a t younger c h i l d r e n b e n e f i t e d  than o l d e r  that  children  l e s s from e x p e r i e n c e (or  19. l e a r n i n g t r i a l s ) than older or misunderstood  c h i l d r e n d i d , not because they were slower  t h e e x p e r i m e n t a l t a s k , but because t h e y encoded t h e  t a s k s t i m u l i on fewer dimensions.  The i m p l i c a t i o n of t h i s f i n d i n g i s  t h a t w i t h age t h e c h i l d a n a l y z e s and encodes i n f o r m a t i o n p r e s e n t e d t o him on an i n c r e a s i n g number of dimensions. The r e a s o n why Ss' were a b l e t o decode semantic were not y e t a b l e t o decode s y n t a c t i c  i n f o r m a t i o n , but  i n f o r m a t i o n , may u l t i m a t e l y be  " f u n c t i o n a l " , or have what may be c a l l e d a "pragmatic" b a s i s . sentences r e f e r t o r e a l events and s i t u a t i o n s . it  seems l i k e l y t h a t t h e c h i l d ,  Since t h i s  Usually,  i s t h e case,  i n l e a r n i n g a language, would be s e n s i -  t i v e t o semantic c o n s t r a i n t s on sentences e a r l i e r  t h a n he would be s e n s i -  t i v e t o s y n t a c t i c or a r b i t r a r y c o n s t r a i n t s on s e n t e n c e s .  In t h e sense  t h a t sentences r e f e r t o r e a l events and s i t u a t i o n s , semantic i n f o r m a t i o n i n a sentence i s more i n f o r m a t i v e t h a n s y n t a c t i c  information.  sentences i n which s u r f a c e s u b j e c t and verb do not agree seem, to be ungrammatical  i n only a t r i f l i n g  s o r t of way.  formed sentences seem t o be ungrammatical V i o l a t i o n s of semantic c o n s t r a i n t s a l t e r  For example, intuitively,  Semantically i l l -  i n a much more s i g n i f i c a n t  a sentence's meaning i n a much  more s i g n i f i c a n t way than do v i o l a t i o n s of s y n t a c t i c c o n s t r a i n t s 1961).  way.  (Chomsky,  Thus, t h e r e may be " f u n c t i o n a l " or " a d a p t i v e " reasons f o r a c q u i r i n g  r u l e s f o r decoding semantic syntactic  information.  information e a r l i e r  than r u l e s f o r d e c o d i n g  Semantic i n f o r m a t i o n i s simply more  informative  than s y n t a c t i c information. In f a c t , t h i s de V i l l i e r s  (1972).  i s c o n s i s t e n t w i t h r e s u l t s r e p o r t e d by de V i l l i e r s and They found t h a t c h i l d r e n were a b l e t o a p p r o p r i a t e l y  judge s e m a n t i c a l l y w e l l - f o r m e d and i l l - f o r m e d stone v s . Throw t h e sky) e a r l i e r  (e.g., Throw t h e  than they were a b l e t o a p p r o p r i a t e l y  judge s y n t a c t i c a l l y well-formed and i l l - f o r m e d your t e e t h v s . T e e t h your b r u s h ) .  sentences  sentences  (e.g., Brush  20.  From a p r o c e s s i n g p o i n t of view, however, i t i s u n c l e a r why o l d e r groups formed  the  two  of Ss' were a b l e t o d i s c r i m i n a t e between s e m a n t i c a l l y w e l l -  and s e m a n t i c a l l y i l l - f o r m e d  (Type I I ) s e n t e n c e s , but not between  s e m a n t i c a l l y w e l l - f o r m e d - a g r e e i n g and non-agreeing  (Type I I ) ones.  The  f a c t t h a t they d i d d i s c r i m i n a t e b e t w e e n . s e m a n t i c a l l y well-formed and formed  Type I I sentences demonstrates  t h e s e sentences.  Thus, why  ill-  t h a t they d i d a p p l y R r u l e s t o  were t h e s e c h i l d r e n unable t o d i s c r i m i n a t e  between s e m a n t i c a l l y well-formed: a g r e e i n g and non-agreeing Type I I sentences. The r e a s o n f o r t h i s may makes two  (and presumably  whether i n f l e c t i o n a l  be t h a t d u r i n g sentence decoding a person  more) 'passes' on a s e n t e n c e — o n e  information violates  another t o determine whether t h i s During the f i r s t  to  determine  semantic c o n s t r a i n t s ,  information violates  syntactic  have been v i o l a t e d .  been v i o l a t e d .  During a second  I f the decoding of i n f l e c t i o n a l  i n f o r m a t i o n i s thought  s t a g e s , the f i n d i n g t h a t the o l d e r ill-formed  (Type I I ) sentences  is easily  interpretable.  Ss'  non-  I t would mean t h a t  at t h i s age Ss' had not y e t a c q u i r e d mechanisms t o make a second  pass  i n f o r m a t i o n i n t h e s e sentences.  A l t h o u g h t h i s model i s a d m i t t e d l y ad hoc, r e s u l t s obtained. inflectional  to  (Type I I )  s e n t e n c e s , but not between s e m a n t i c a l l y well-formed a g r e e i n g and  to  constraints  pass a person would perform the same  d i s c r i m i n a t e d between s e m a n t i c a l l y well-formed and  inflectional  The  i n t h i s case t o determine whether s y n t a c t i c c o n s t r a i n t s have  c o n s i s t of s e v e r a l d i f f e r e n t  agreeing  constraints.  pass a person would apply R r u l e s t o the sentence.  purpose of t h i s o p e r a t i o n would be t o determine whether semantic  o p e r a t i o n , but  and  i t can account f o r the  I f i t i s thought t h a t R r u l e s a r e a p p l i e d . o n l y once  i n f o r m a t i o n , t h e s e r e s u l t s cannot be e x p l a i n e d .  These  on  21.  r e s u l t s suggest t h a t t h e p r o c e s s i n g component grammar a p p l i e s R r u l e s t o a sentence first  (Kaplan) of t h e c h i l d ' s  i n at l e a s t two d i s c r e t e s t a g e s ;  t o determine whether semantic c o n s t r a i n t s have been v i o l a t e d , . and  s e c o n d l y t o determine whether s y n t a c t i c c o n s t r a i n t s have been v i o l a t e d . The second to  p r e d i c t i o n t h a t was made was t h a t when c h i l d r e n are a b l e  decode agreement, t h e i r  a b i l i t y t o do so w i l l not be r e s t r i c t e d t o  sentences of o n l y one s u r f a c e - o r d e r i n g . a n a l y s i s do not confirm, t h i s  The r e s u l t s of the second  p r e d i c t i o n , as i s e v i d e n t i n T a b l e I .  F i r s t , the f i n d i n g t h a t t h e youngest tween ( s e m a n t i c a l l y well-formed)  Ss' d i d not d i s c r i m i n a t e be-  a g r e e i n g and non-agreeing Type I or  Type I I sentences suggests t h a t t h e s e c h i l d r e n d i d not use i n f o r m a t i o n i n j u d g i n g the t e s t  sentences.  inflectional  T h i s i s a l s o suggested by  the f i n d i n g t h a t these c h i l d r e n d i d not d i s c r i m i n a t e between s e m a n t i c a l l y w e l l - f o r m e d and s e m a n t i c a l l y i l l - f o r m e d Type I I s e n t e n c e s . c h i l d r e n had used  inflectional  i n f o r m a t i o n i n the t e s t  I f these  sentences t o judge  them, i t f o l l o w s t h a t t h e y would have d i s c r i m i n a t e d between s e m a n t i c a l l y well-formed and i l l - f o r m e d Type I I s e n t e n c e s , and between well-formed) In  this  a g r e e i n g and non-agreeing  (semantically  sentences of each sentence t y p e .  sense, t h e s e r e s u l t s a r e c o n s i s t e n t w i t h (though do not c o n f i r m )  the h y p o t h e s i s t h a t c h i l d r e n w i l l be a b l e to decode agreement when they have a c q u i r e d R r u l e s .  The youngest  Ss' judgments of the t e s t  sentences  p r o v i d e no evidence t h a t they were a b l e t o a n a l y z e t h e r e l a t i o n between the number f e a t u r e s of l e x i c a l  items i n t h e s e s e n t e n c e s , or t h a t they were  a b l e t o d i s c r i m i n a t e between a g r e e i n g and non-agreeing  sentences.  But a t t h e p o i n t when Ss' were a b l e t o d i s c r i m i n a t e between ( s e m a n t i c a l l y well-formed) t h e y were s t i l l  a g r e e i n g and non-agreeing Type I sentences,  not a b l e t o d i s c r i m i n a t e between Type I I sentences of the  22.  same k i n d .  Thus, the r e s u l t s o b t a i n e d f o r the two  indicate that t h i s p r e d i c t i o n  is incorrect.  The  older  groups of Ss*  s u r f a c e - o r d e r i n g of a  sentence does a f f e c t the d e c o d i n g of agreement. The f a c t t h a t the two o l d e r  groups of c h i l d r e n were a b l e t o d i s -  c r i m i n a t e between ( s e m a n t i c a l l y well-formed) a g r e e i n g and  non-agreeing  Type I s e n t e n c e s , but o n l y between s e m a n t i c a l l y well-formed and formed Type I I s e n t e n c e s , may  demonstrate  t h e d e c o d i n g of i n f o r m a t i o n i n t r o d u c e d by  how  sentence s t r u c t u r e  affects  inflections.  Each of the Type I sentences i s s e m a n t i c a l l y w e l l - f o r m e d . were asked whether the t e s t  ill-  S i n c e Ss'  sentences sounded " r i g h t " or "wrong", i t may  "be i n f e r r e d t h a t Ss' c o n s i d e r e d t h e Type I sentences they judged t o " r i g h t " t o be s e m a n t i c a l l y and s y n t a c t i c a l l y w e l l - f o r m e d . asked:to  judge whether the t e s t  sound  Ss' were not  sentences were s e m a n t i c a l l y w e l l - or  formed, or s y n t a c t i c a l l y w e l l - or i l l - f o r m e d .  They were asked to  whether the sentences sounded " r i g h t " or "wrong".  If this  ill-  judge  inference is  c o r r e c t , the r e s u l t s o b t a i n e d suggest t h a t the o l d e r Ss' were a b l e t o appropriately  judge the semantic and,the  syntactic  well/ill-formedness  of the Type I s e n t e n c e s , but o n l y the semantic w e l l / i l l - f o r m e d n e s s of thee Type I I sentences.  If t h i s  i s c o r r e c t , these r e s u l t s  suggest t h a t t h e  way  i n which sentence s t r u c t u r e a f f e c t s the decoding of i n f o r m a t i o n i s t o l i m i t t h e e x t e n t t o which the sentence i s processed,, or the number of o p e r a t i o n s t h a t a r e performed  on i t .  The r e a s o n why  the o l d e r  groups  of Ss' d i d not d i s c r i m i n a t e between s e m a n t i c a l l y well-formed a g r e e i n g and non-agreeing Type I I sentences may  simply be t h a t they d i d not perform  o p e r a t i o n s on them t o determine whether the s u r f a c e s u b j e c t and the v e r b agreed.  The  r e s u l t s o b t a i n e d suggest t h a t they o n l y performed o p e r a t i o n s  t o determine whether these sentences were s e m a n t i c a l l y . well-formed or  23.  semantically ill-formed.  They suggest that at this age children are only  able to decode agreement i n sentences i n which the surface subject i s the preverbal noun phrase. In summary,, there are two l o g i c a l requirements that must be f u l f i l l e d to decode agreement.  L o g i c a l l y , the c h i l d must i d e n t i f y the surface  subject and the verb of a sentence,. and secondly determine whether the number features of these items agree.  Thus, i n the course of development,  the c h i l d must acquire rules to perform these operations and add them to thei;"knowledge component" of his grammar.  C l e a r l y , i f the c h i l d did not  acquire these r u l e s , the c h i l d would not be able to decode agreement. The results obtained i n this study suggest that the way in which these rules are applied i s , however,. somewhat more complex.  These results  suggest that the decoding of agreement by c h i l d r e n — a n d the point at which they are able to do s o — i s more complex than these l o g i c a l requirements would indicate.  F i r s t , the fact that agreement is a syntactic r u l e , as  opposed; to a semantic one, seems to increase the d i f f i c u l t y of learning it.  Before children can decode agreement, t h e y can already decode semantic  information—even-though t h i s information i s derived i n the same way as information regarding agreement.  I t seems that the point at which children  can decode agreement is affected by the a r b i t r a r y nature of agreement r u l e s . Secondly, the structure of a sentence seems to constrain the a c c e s s i b i l i t y of i n f l e c t i o n a l information i n i t .  Children,are able to decode agreement  in sentences i n which the surface subject i s the preverbal noun phrase e a r l i e r than they are able to do so with sentences i n which the surface subject is the postverbal noun,phrase.  These findings suggest that an  adequate model of how children decode agreement must take into account the a r b i t r a r y nature of agreement rules and the constraining effect of sentence structure.  24.  BIBLIOGRAPHY  Anderson, John R., & Bower, Gordon H. Human A s s o c i a t i v e Memory. Washington, D.C.: V.H. Winston & Sons,. 1973. Brown, Roger. A F i r s t Language: U n i v e r s i t y P r e s s , 1973.  The E a r l y S t a g e s .  Cambridge: Harvard  Brown, Roger, & F r a s e r , C o l i n . The a c q u i s i t i o n of syntax. In C h a r l e s N. Cofer & Barbara Musgrave ( E d s . ) , V e r b a l Behavior and L e a r n i n g : Problems and P r o c e s s e s . New York:. M c G r a w - H i l l , 1963. pp. 158-201. Chomsky, Noam. Aspects of t h e Theory of Syntax. P r e s s , 1965.  Cambridge:. M .1.T.  Chomsky, Noam. Some m e t h o d o l o g i c a l remarks on g e n e r a t i v e grammar. Word, 1961, 17, 219-239. de V i l l i e r s , Peter A., & de V i l l i e r s , J i l l G. E a r l y judgements of semantic and s y n t a c t i c a c c e p t a b i l i t y by c h i l d r e n . J o u r n a l of Psycho l i n g u i s t i c Research, 1972,. 1, No. 4,. 299-310. Fodor, J.A., Bever, T.G.,. & G a r r e t t , M.F. The Psychology of Language: An I n t r o d u c t i o n t o Psycho l i n g u i s t i e s and G e n e r a t i v e Grammar. New York: M c G r a w - H i l l , 1974. Kaplan, Ronald M. On process models f o r sentence a n a l y s i s . In Donald A.. Norman & David E. Rumelhart ( E d s . ) , E x p l o r a t i o n s i n C o g n i t i o n . San F r a n c i s c o : W.H. Freeman, 1975, pp. 117-135. Keeney, T e r r e n c e J . , & W o l f e , Jean. The a c q u i s i t i o n of agreement i n E n g l i s h . J o u r n a l of V e r b a l L e a r n i n g and V e r b a l B e h a v i o r , 1972, 2, 698-705. M i l l e r , Wick R. The a c q u i s i t i o n of grammatical r u l e s by c h i l d r e n . In C h a r l e s A. Ferguson & Dan I . S l o b i n (Eds.), S t u d i e s of C h i l d Language Development. New York: H o l t , R i n e h a r t & Winston, 1973, pp. 380-391.'"'" M i l l e r , Wick R., & E r v i n , Susan M. The development o f grammar i n . c h i l d language. In U r s u l a B e l l u g i & Roger Brown (Eds.), The A c q u i s i t i o n of Language. Monographs of the S o c i e t y f o r Research i n C h i l d Development, 1964, 29, No. 1, pp. 9-33. Norman, Donald A. Memory, knowledge and the answering of q u e s t i o n s . In Robert L. S o l s o (Ed.), Contemporary Issues i n C o g n i t i v e Psychology: The L o y o l a Symposium. Washington, D.C.: V.H. Winston & Sons, 1973, pp. 135-165.  /  25.  S i e g l e r , Robert S. Three a s p e c t s of c o g n i t i v e development. P s y c h o l o g y, 1976, 8, 481-520.  Cognitive  Smith, E.E., Shoben, E . J . , & R i p s , L . J . S t r u c t u r e and process i n semantic memory: A f e a t u r e model f o r semantic d e c i s i o n s . P s y c h o l o g i c a l Review,, 1974, 81,. 214-241.  26.  APPENDIX I  Type I sentences  Which Which Which Which *Which *Which *Which *Which  monkey b i t e s t h e horses? cow chases t h e dogs? pigs hear t h e chicken? c a t s watch t h e mosquito? g o r i l l a chase b u l l hear t h e foxes watches turtles bites  the lions? ducks? the t i g e r ? the l i z a r d ?  Type I I sentences  Which Which Which Which  cup box pot bag  are are are are  the the the the  bananas i n ? pears i n ? apples i n ? oranges i n ?  *Which *Which *Which *Which  c l o s e t i s t h e books i n ? room i s t h e c h e r r i e s i n ? basket i s t h e potatoes i n ? corner i s t h e f l o w e r s i n ?  *Which *Which *Which *Which  bowls Is t h e peach i n ? j a r s i s t h e plum i n ? drawers i s t h e t o y i n ? pans i s t h e tomato i n ?  *Which *Which *Which *Which  p a i l s are the a p r i c o t in? caves a r e t h e rock i n ? buckets a r e t h e b r u s h i n ? p l a t e s a r e t h e melon i n ?  

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