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Permanent link (DOI): https://doi.org/10.7939/R3TM72D0C

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Cartoons and comprehension: The effect of visual context on children's sentence processing Open Access

Descriptions

Other title
Subject/Keyword
Visual context
Semantic animacy
Animacy
Language comprehension
Relative Clause
Pronoun resolution
Child language development
Type of item
Thesis
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Cooper, Rebecca J
Supervisor and department
Charest, Monique (Communication Sciences and Disorders
Järvikivi, Juhani (Linguistics)
Examining committee member and department
Nicoladis, Elena (Psychology)
Boliek, Carol (Communication Sciences and Disorders
Department
Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders
Specialization
Speech-language pathology
Date accepted
2016-12-20T15:13:34Z
Graduation date
2017-06:Spring 2017
Degree
Master of Science
Degree level
Master's
Abstract
Spoken language comprehension is a complex task that involves taking into account many types of information at the same rate as speech unfolds. It is established that adults use both non-linguistic cues, such as visual context, as well as linguistic cues, such as semantic animacy, to maximize successful interpretation of the input during language processing. Previous research has shown that adults can override their usual assumptions of animacy and interpret inanimate entities as the actors in a sentence when provided with a fictional context. To date no research has looked at whether this flexibility of processing extends to children. This study examined how semantic animacy and visual features of the antecedent nouns constrain children’s and adults’ interpretations of ambiguous pronouns during spoken language comprehension. The semantic animacy of the subject and object nouns varied (i.e., animate animals vs. inanimate objects). We manipulated visual animacy by adding eyes and mouths to the inanimate images in half of the trials (e.g., for "There is the couch that the bunny phoned" the image of the couch included facial features). By tracking participants’ eye movements to the images of the subject and object of the preceding sentence we observed how they interpreted the ambiguous agentive pronoun, “he” (e.g., “He was excited to go to the movie that night”). We also collected offline data in the form of verbal responses to pronoun antecedent questions. Eye-tracking data revealed that both children and adults used semantic animacy during pronoun resolution. However time-course and sentence condition differences between participant groups suggest subtle differences between adults and children online. Verbal responses showed that both groups preferred animate nouns as antecedents in final interpretations. Children also displayed main effects of visual context in eye-tracking data, when adults only displayed interactions. Yet pronoun resolution was affected by visual context in both groups’ offline verbal responses. Inanimate nouns were more likely to be considered antecedents when corresponding images were visually animate (i.e., contained facial features). Findings from this study illustrate children’s ability to use visual context during pronoun resolution, as well as illustrate similarities and differences in processing in comparison to adults.
Language
English
DOI
doi:10.7939/R3TM72D0C
Rights
This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for the purpose of private, scholarly or scientific research. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
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