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Auteur: Peng ZHOU

What does eye-tracking reveal about children's linguistic knowledge?

Abstract/Résumé: As compared to off-line methodologies, like picture-selection and judgment tasks, eye tracking is a more sensitive testing paradigm to answer certain questions about children’s comprehension abilities. The recording of children’s eye movements during spoken language comprehension offers a fairly direct, real-time indication of the child’s attentional state during spoken language comprehension. Under most natural circumstances, one can assume that where the child is looking reflects what he or she views as relevant to the task and to the ongoing comprehension process (Trueswell, 2008). By measuring how visual-attentional states line up in time with the successive arrival of words and phrases, researchers can gain insight into the real-time processes by which listeners organize utterances structurally and semantically, and how they map these representations onto the events and objects they denote. In this talk, we present three studies to show the sensitivity of eye-tracking in revealing about children’s linguistic knowledge. Experiment 1 investigated children’s use of prosody in sentence comprehension, Experiment 2 examined children’s understanding of epistemic modals, and Experiment 3 looked at children’s knowledge of grammatical aspect. All the three experiments used the visual world paradigm of eye-tracking, in which children were presented with a spoken sentence while viewing a picture (Tanenhaus et al., 1995). The findings show that eye-tracking is a sensitive measure of children’s linguistic knowledge in on-line sentence processing.