Children's eye gaze reveals their use of discourse context in object pronoun resolution

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademic


    Dutch-speaking children, like English-speaking children, allow a noncoreferential as well as a coreferential interpretation for an object pronoun. Our question is whether children make use of the structure of the discourse context and the prominence of referents to resolve this pronominal ambiguity. We describe a visual world experiment with Dutch children (4-6 years old) and a control group of adult participants. Three different context types were tested, which varied in the order of referent introduction and the number of referents that were introduced. The children’s behavioral responses suggest that their performance becomes more adult-like when the antecedent is more prominent in the context. The gaze data shows that visual and linguistic context can direct children towards an adult-like interpretation, but also towards an ungrammatical interpretation. This suggests that children between 4-6 years old rely less on grammatical knowledge to resolve an object pronoun than adults, but also use other information such as discourse prominence and visual context.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationEmpirical perspectives on anaphora resolution
    EditorsAnke Holler, Katja Suckow
    Place of PublicationBerlin/Boston
    PublisherDe Gruyter
    ISBN (Electronic)978-3-11-046410-8, 978-3-11-046232-6
    ISBN (Print)978-3-11-045968-5
    Publication statusPublished - 2016

    Publication series

    NameLinguistische Arbeiten
    PublisherDe Gruyter


    • discourse processing, language acquisition, language processing, object pronouns, visual world paradigm

    Cite this