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Acquisition of number agreement: Effects of processing demands

Marie Van Reybroeck & Michel Hupet
Journal of Writing Research 1(2), 153-172

This study aimed to assess the extent to which the acquisition of number agreement in written French is influenced by the cognitive cost of processing demands associated with (a) the handwriting activity itself, (b) the lexical spelling complexity of the words and (c) the complexity of the sentences to be written. Children from grades 5 and 6 were asked to write dictated sentences in various conditions: they were either asked to write whole sentences, or to write only a word (noun, adjective or verb) within a sentence, or to only complete the endings of words within a sentence. Results showed that children are sensitive to these three factors: (1) children correctly marked more agreements when they were required to complete the endings of words than when they were required to write whole words; (2) children correctly marked more agreements for simple nouns, adjectives and verbs than for complex ones; (3) children were more successful at agreeing the verb when the sentence structure was simple than when it was complex. More precisely, low-level spelling children were more sensitive to these three factors than high-level spelling children. The study shows that the way children made nouns, verbs or adjectives agreements depends on the cost of simultaneous processing demands such as the handwriting activity, the lexical spelling complexity of the words or the sentence complexity.

PDF | doi: 10.17239/jowr-2009.01.02.3

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