Prosody and the development of comprehension
SourceJournal of Child Language, 14, 1, (1987), pp. 145-167
Article / Letter to editor
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SW OZ DCC CO
Journal of Child Language
Four studies are reported in which young children's response time to detect word targets was measured. Children under about six years of age did not show the response time advantage for accented target words which adult listeners show. When semantic focus of the target word was manipulated independently of accent, children of about five years of age showed an adult-like response time advantage for focussed targets, but children younger than five did not. It is argued that the processing advantage for accented words reflects the semantic role of accent as an expression of sentence focus. Processing advantages for accented words depend on the prior development of representations of sentence semantic structure, including the concept of focus. The previous literature on the development of prosodic competence shows an apparent anomaly in that young children's productive skills appear to outstrip their receptive skills; however, this anomaly disappears if very young children's prosody is assumed to be produced without an underlying representation of the relationship between prosody and semantics.
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