Children's use of phonological information in ambiguity resolution: A view from Mandarin Chinese

Peng Zhou*, Yi Su, Stephen Crain, Liqun Gao, Likan Zhan

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    23 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    How do children develop the mapping between prosody and other levels of linguistic knowledge? This question has received considerable attention in child language research. In the present study two experiments were conducted to investigate four- to five-year-old Mandarin-speaking children's sensitivity to prosody in ambiguity resolution. Experiment 1 used eye-tracking to assess children's use of stress in resolving structural ambiguities. Experiment 2 took advantage of special properties of Mandarin to investigate whether children can use intonational cues to resolve ambiguities involving speech acts. The results of our experiments show that children's use of prosodic information in ambiguity resolution varies depending on the type of ambiguity involved. Children can use prosodic information more effectively to resolve speech act ambiguities than to resolve structural ambiguities. This finding suggests that the mapping between prosody and semantics/pragmatics in young children is better established than the mapping between prosody and syntax.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)687-730
    Number of pages44
    JournalJournal of Child Language
    Volume39
    Issue number4
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Sep 2012

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