Priming syntactic ambiguity resolution in children and adults

Naomi Havron, Camila Scaff, Maria Julia Carbajal, Tal Linzen, Axel Barrault, Anne Christophe

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Adults use their recent experience to disambiguate ambiguous sentences: Structures that have recently been primed are favoured in the resolution of different types of ambiguity, an example of structural priming. Research on children's use of recent information for disambiguation is scarce. Using a forced-choice task with a tablet, we asked whether 5–6-year-old French-speaking children could also be primed in the resolution of attachment ambiguities, as well as whether listeners are affected by the proportion of primes of each structure, and whether priming is cumulative. We found that both children and adults can be primed, and are sensitive to the proportion of structures in the input, and that priming effects cumulate as the experiment progresses. This is the first study showing priming of ambiguous sentences at 5–6 years, suggesting that children, like adults, use recent experience as a source of disambiguating information.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)1445-1455
    Number of pages11
    JournalLanguage, Cognition and Neuroscience
    Issue number10
    StatePublished - Dec 2020


    • Adaptation
    • ambiguity
    • children
    • language
    • priming

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Language and Linguistics
    • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
    • Linguistics and Language
    • Cognitive Neuroscience


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