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Original scientific paper
Marijan Palmović, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; Laboratorij za psiholingvistička istraživanja, Sveučilište u Zagrebu
Ines Galić Jušić; Laboratorij za psiholingvistička istraživanja, Sveučilište u Zagrebu

 

Summary

Anticipatory eye movements are studied as a good psycholinguistic measure of argument structure processing. It is well documented that people tend to turn their gaze towards the reference of the noun when they listen to a sentence; however, when they hear a verb in a sentence, their gaze anticipates its arguments, i.e. the gaze is turned to the objects that are references of the verb’s arguments. Although there is no agreement on the nature of the processes that are reflected in the anticipatory gaze (whether they reflect syntactic processes of argument structure building or semantic processes related to the meaning of the verb), anticipatory eye movements correspond to the top–down processes in language processing. In this study we measured anticipatory eye movements in two groups of children: children with typical language development (TLD) and children with Specific Language Impairment (SLI). In a listening paradigm the anticipatory gaze was recorded in two conditions: (1) with the last word of the sentence (part of the argument structure of the verb) represented as a picture and (2) with the last word of the sentence not represented on the screen. Instead, a picture that represents a semantically related word was presented. The difference in the anticipatory eye movements in the two groups of children was obtained. In the TLD group the average duration of the anticipatory gaze was more than 2,5 s in the first (»syntactic«) condition, while shorter in the second (»semantic«) condition (≈2 s). In the SLI group the anticipatory eye movements were shorter in the »syntactic« condition (1,4 s) and slightly longer in the »semantic« condition (1,6 s). This pattern of results reveals the difference in language processing in the two groups of participants: while children with TLD use the syntactic information in sentence structure building in a top–down processing, children with SLI rely on the semantic information as a compensation strategy for their language difficulty.

 

Keywords

anticipatory eye movements; children with Specific Language Impairment; language development; language processing

 

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