Understanding sentences in varying contexts

Clark Presson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


The present study tested Huttenlocher & Weiner's (1971) hypothesis concerning the role of grammatical function in sentence comprehension. Children arranged objects to correspond to descriptions of transitive relations in two tasks. The patterns of object placements provided evidence of how children understood the various sentence forms. Contrary to Huttenlocher & Weiner's hypothesis, grammatical function was not a critical factor in object placements. This was true based on the group data or individual-based analyses. Two factors were important: logical function and order of mention of the items in the sentence. Whether an item was grammatical subject or grammatical object did not affect subjects’ choices. The order of mention effects resulted from inattention to sentence meaning prior to the initial choices on certain trials. If the logical relations in a sentence were understood prior to the response, only logical function influenced subjects’ responses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)217-228
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Child Language
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1982

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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