This study examines the processing of sentences with and without subject-verb agreement violations in German-speaking children at three and five years of age. An eye-tracking experiment was conducted to measure whether children's looking behavior was influenced by the grammaticality of the test sentences. The older group of children turned their gaze faster towards a target picture and looked longer at it when the object noun referring to the target was presented in a grammatical sentence with subject-verb agreement compared to when the object noun was presented in a sentence in which an agreement violation occurred. The younger group of children displayed less conclusive results, with a tendency to look longer but not faster towards the target picture in the grammatical compared to the ungrammatical condition. This is the first experimental evidence that German-speaking five-year old children are sensitive to subject-verb agreement and violations thereof. Our results additionally substantiate that the eye-tracking paradigm is suitable to examine children's sensitivity to subtle grammatical violations.
- Language acquisition
- Subject-verb agreement