More individual differences in language attainment: How much do adult native speakers of English know about passives and quantifiers?

Street, James and Dabrowska, Ewa (2010) More individual differences in language attainment: How much do adult native speakers of English know about passives and quantifiers? Lingua, 120 (8). pp. 2080-2094. ISSN 0024-3841

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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.lingua.2010.01.004

Abstract

This paper provides experimental evidence suggesting that there are considerable differences in native language attainment, and that these are at least partially attributable to individual speakers’ experience. Experiment 1 tested high academic attainment (hereafter, HAA) and low academic attainment (LAA) participants’ comprehension using a picture selection task. Test sentences comprised passives and two variants of the universal quantification construction. Active constructions were used as a control condition. HAA participants performed at ceiling in all conditions; LAA participants performed at ceiling only on actives. As predicted by usage-based accounts, the order of difficulty of the four sentence types mirrored their frequency. Experiment 2 tested whether the less-educated participants’ difficulties with these constructions are attributable to insufficient experience. After a screening test, low scoring participants were randomly assigned to two training groups. The passive training group were given a short training session on the passive construction; and the quantifier training group were trained on sentences with quantifiers. A series of post-training tests show that performance on the trained construction improved dramatically, and that the effect was long-lasting.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Individual differences; English passive construction; universal quantification, sentence comprehension, linguistic competence, linguistic performance
Subjects: Q100 Linguistics
Depositing User: Ellen Cole
Date Deposited: 20 Jan 2012 14:14
Last Modified: 26 Oct 2017 10:19
URI: http://nrl.northumbria.ac.uk/id/eprint/4628

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