Marco Dispaldro, Beatrice Benelli

The comprehension of number (singular and plural) in the definite article: a study on 3 year-old-children

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Keywords: Definite articles, singular, plural, comprehension

The objective of this study is to investigate the singular and plural representation of definite articles, in 3 year-old-children with typical language development. Experiment 1: Pointing Task. Singular and plural forms were investigated using a task requiring the participants to point at one of two sheets of paper which varied according to the number of items depicted on them ([X] [XX]). The results of this experiment showed that children seem to understand plural better than singular forms. Since it is not possible to exclude that children pointing at the plural array [XX] actually take into consideration just one of the items [XX], a more explicit experimental condition has been devised. Experiment 2: Selection Task. In this experiments, participants were asked to pick-up the objects from one of two containers, which varied in the number of items put on them ([X] [XX]), following the morphological informations provided by the instructions. The results show that 3 year-old-children do possess a representation of singular and plural, but contrary to what happened in Experiment 1 the singular form is understood better than the plural one; this is due because children tend to pick-up /one/ item with the singular instruction and /more than one/ item with the plural instruction regardless of their position (singular: [X] [XX] or [X] [XX]; plural: [X] [XX] or [X] [XX] or [X] [XX]). In conclusion, this study demostrates that children at 3 years of age understand the quantitative information on definite articles. Moreover, they show different strategy of target's selection. This study suggests questions about the role of the contest during a singular and plural comprehension task; another implication regards the type of tools using for this type of comprehension's studies.

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