Investigating and comparing the magnitude of syntactic priming effects between young children and adults
Calum Crichton Dissertation 2013.pdf (1.862Mb)
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A tendency for people to repeat the same sentence structure as they have just heard, known as syntactic priming, has been shown separately in both adults and children. Whilst there are various theoretical reasons why we might expect this effect to be greater for children (e.g. learning involves imitation), there has been a surprising lack of studies directly comparing the magnitude of syntactic priming effects between the two groups. In this present study, we used a syntactic priming paradigm to directly compare a group of adults and a group of young children (3-4 years old) over two separate sessions. Participants described a series of picture cards displaying mono-transitive and ditransitive events, after hearing a lexically unrelated prime description. We found that both groups were more likely to produce passives and double objects (DOs) after hearing a prime of the same structure. Children had a greater tendency to repeat passive structure than adults, but the same was not true for DOs. The results also showed that children produced more passives in the second session than in the first, so overall our results seem consistent with the implicit learning theory.