Are Children’s Syntactic Representations Facilitated By A Rapidly Decaying Lexical Boost?
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Garry, Neil William
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The present study explores whether 4 year old children have abstract syntactic representations and if so whether they are facilitated by repetition of lexical items. A lexical boost, elicited by repetition, has been shown to facilitate the magnitude of priming (Pickering & Branigan, 1998) in adults, whilst being subject to rapid decay (Hartsuiker, Bernolet, Schoonbaert, Speybroeck & Vanderelst, 2008). By replicating the ‘snap game’ priming paradigm of Branigan, McLean and Jones (2005) we demonstrate that children possess limited abstract representations of active and passive transitive constructions. By manipulating lag and lexical overlap we seek to demonstrate both the persistence of syntactic priming, and rapid decay of the lexical boost, in children. The results presented add to the literature which suggests that children’s acquisition of language proceeds by way of a multi-faceted approach which draws on both abstract syntactic representations and lexical items. This convergent approach integrates theoretical underpinnings from universal grammar (Chomsky, 1959) and usage based accounts of acquisition (Tomasello, 2000).