Retour vers liste

Détail de la contribution

Auteur: Theo MARINIS

Parsing passives across populations

Abstract/Résumé: Child language acquisition research has traditionally focused on comparisons between children along one dimension; e.g., within the dimension of typical development (TD), comparing monolingual to bilingual children or within the dimension of language impairment, comparing children with hearing impairment to children with Specific Language Impairment (SLI). More recently, several studies have compared children across two dimensions, e.g., sequential bilingual (L2) children to children with SLI and have found some striking similarities in the pattern of these two groups (Paradis, 2010). This is surprising because language difficulties in these two groups have a different aetiology: language impairment in children with SLI, reduced exposure to the second language in the L2 children. This raises several questions: do the two groups have a similar underlying grammatical system despite the different aetiology of their language difficulties? Does the similarity hold across different language tasks? Do the two groups have difficulties in the same comprehension processes? My presentation will address these questions by comparing the comprehension of passives in children with SLI to L2 and L1 children using on-line and off-line comprehension tasks. Comparison between L2 children and children with SLI allows us to understand whether passives develop uniformly across learners and also whether they are processed similarly across the two groups of children. This can address the mechanisms behind language development and language breakdown. Moreover, comparison between on-line and off-line comprehension tasks allows us to pin down the source of the break down because they tap into different processes of the sentence comprehension system. 25 monolingual (L1) children with SLI, 32 L2 children, and 29 L1 controls completed the Test of Active & Passive Sentences-Revised (van der Lely, 1996) and the self-paced listening task with picture verification for actives and passives (Marinis, 2007). These revealed important between-group differences in both tasks. The children with SLI showed difficulties in both actives and passives when they had to reanalyse thematic roles on-line. Their error pattern provided evidence for working memory limitations. The L2 children showed difficulties only in passives both on-line and off-line. We suggest that these results relate to the complex syntactic algorithm in passives and reflect an earlier developmental stage due to reduced exposure to the L2. The results will be discussed in relation to theories of SLI and L2. They can be best accommodated within accounts proposing that difficulties in the comprehension of passives in children with SLI stem from processing limitations and in L2 from delayed acquisition due to late onset.