Children’s online use of word order and morphosyntactic markers in Tagalog thematic role assignment: An eye-tracking study
Garcia, R., Roeser, J., & Höhle, B.
Children’s online use of word order and morphosyntactic markers in Tagalog thematic role assignment: An eye-tracking study. Journal of Child Language, 47
(3), 533-555. doi:10.1017/S0305000919000618.
We investigated whether Tagalog-speaking children incrementally interpret the first noun
as the agent, even if verbal and nominal markers for assigning thematic roles are given
early in Tagalog sentences. We asked five- and seven-year-old children and adult
controls to select which of two pictures of reversible actions matched the sentence they
heard, while their looks to the pictures were tracked. Accuracy and eye-tracking data
showed that agent-initial sentences were easier to comprehend than patient-initial
sentences, but the effect of word order was modulated by voice. Moreover, our eyetracking
data provided evidence that, by the first noun phrase, seven-year-old children
looked more to the target in the agent-initial compared to the patient-initial conditions,
but this word order advantage was no longer observed by the second noun phrase. The
findings support language processing and acquisition models which emphasize the role
of frequency in developing heuristic strategies (e.g., Chang, Dell, & Bock, 2006).