Grammatical and caregiver cues in early sentence comprehension

Michele Shady, Louann Gerken

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


In order to begin to learn a language, young children must be able to locate and distinguish linguistic units in the speech they hear. A number of cues in the speech stream may aid them in this task. Some cues, such as frequently occurring grammatical morphemes and prosodic changes at linguistic boundaries are inherent in the language. Other cues, such as short utterance length and placement of key words in utterance-final position, are not integral to the grammar of the language but are characteristically provided by caregivers. Although previous studies suggest that even infants are sensitive to many of these cues, it is not clear that young listeners actually use them in assigning structure to sentences. The experiments reported here asked whether 60 children aged 2;o to 2;2 used grammatical and caregiver cues in sentence comprehension and how different types of cues interacted. Two findings are of note : children used all of the cues tested, and the presence of one type of cue did not diminish use of another.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)163-175
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of child language
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • General Psychology


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