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The attention-grammar interface: eye-gaze cues structural choice in children and adults

Ibbotson, Paul; Elena, Lieven and MIchael, Tomasello (2013). The attention-grammar interface: eye-gaze cues structural choice in children and adults. Cognitive Linguistics, 24(3) pp. 457–481.

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We investigated whether children (3- and 4-year-olds) and adults can use the active passive alternation – essentially a choice of subject– in a way that is consistent with the eye-gaze of the speaker. Previous work suggests the function of the subject position can be grounded in attentional mechanisms (Tomlin, 1995; 1997). Eye-gaze is one powerful source of directing attention that we know adults and young children are sensitive to; furthermore, we know adults are more likely to look at the subject of their sentence than any other character (Gleitman, January, Nappa & Trueswell, 2007; Griffin & Bock, 2000). We demonstrate that older children and adults are able to use speaker-gaze to choose a felicitous subject when describing a scene with both agent-focused and patient focused cues. Integrating attentional and grammatical information in this way allows children to limit the degrees of freedom on what the function of certain linguistic constructions might be.

Item Type: Journal Item
Copyright Holders: 2013 Walter de Gruyter
ISSN: 1613-3641
Keywords: attention-grammar interface; eye-gaze; subject; argument-structure constructions; social cognition
Academic Unit/School: Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies (WELS) > Education, Childhood, Youth and Sport
Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies (WELS)
Research Group: Childhood Youth and Sport Group (CYSG)
Related URLs:
Item ID: 37447
Depositing User: Paul Ibbotson
Date Deposited: 19 Apr 2013 14:17
Last Modified: 10 May 2017 13:23
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