The iPad as a research tool for the understanding of English plurals by English, Chinese, and other L1 speaking 3-and 4-year-olds

Nan Xu Rattanasone*, Benjamin Davies, Tamara Schembri, Fabia Andronos, Katherine Demuth

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

6 Citations (Scopus)
21 Downloads (Pure)


Learning about what young children with limited spoken language know about the grammar of their language is extremely challenging. Researchers have traditionally used looking behavior as a measure of language processing and to infer what overt choices children might make. However, these methods are expensive to setup, require specialized training, are time intensive for data analysis and can have considerable dropout rates. For these reasons, we have developed a forced choice task delivered on an iPad based on our eye-tracking studies with English monolinguals (Davies et al., 2016, under review). Using the iPad we investigated 3- and 4-year-olds' understanding of the English plural in preschool centers. The primary aim of the study was to provide evidence for the usefulness of the iPad as a language research tool. We evaluated the usefulness of the iPad with second language (L2) learning children who have limited L2 language skills. Studies with school aged Chinese-speaking children show below native performance on English inflectional morphology despite 5-6 years of immersion (Jia, 2003; Jia and Fuse, 2007; Paradis et al., 2016). However, it is unclear whether this is specific only to children who speak Chinese as their first language (L1) or if younger preschoolers will also show similar challenges. We tested three groups of preschoolers with different L1s (English, Chinese, and other languages). L1 Chinese children's performance was below both English monolinguals and children speaking Other L1 languages, providing evidence that English inflections are specifically challenging for Chinese-speaking children. The results provide further evidence to support previous eye-tracking findings with monolinguals and studies with older bilinguals. The study provides evidence for the usefulness of iPads as research tool for studying language acquisition. Implications for future application of the iPad as a teaching and intervention tool, and limitations for the method, are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1773
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 22 Nov 2016

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Copyright the Author(s) 2016. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.

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