Scientific article
Open access

Developmental changes in misinterpretation of garden-path wh-questions in French

Published inThe quarterly journal of experimental psychology, vol. 69, no. 5, p. 829-854
Publication date2016

This study explores (mis) interpretation of bi clausal wh-questions by French-speaking adults and children, aiming to investigate cross-linguistic differences in sentence revision mechanisms. Following previous work in Japanese the ambiguity of wh-questions was manipulated: In ambiguous questions, the fronted wh-phrase could be associated with the first, main-clause verb or the second, embedded-clause verb, while in garden-path questions, an inserted filled-gap prepositional phrase (PP) blocked main-clause attachment. Importantly, French differs from Japanese in that the filled gap arises after the first verb —that is, after the wh- phrase has been interpreted within the main clause. Two story-based comprehension experiments were conducted to probe the effect of word order on revision performance. Adults and children frequently provided main -clause interpretations of ambiguous questions. In filled-gap questions, children displayed relatively acute sensitivity to the filled-gap in wh-argument questions (Experiment2), but not in wh-adjunct questions(Experiment1); adults showed surprisingly low sensitivity to it, frequently misinterpreting adjunct and argument questions. Acceptability rating, (Experiment3) showed that adults systematically prefer in situ questions over wh-fronting questions. We conclude that timing of the error signal influences revision, and that whereas French-speaking children prioritize syntactic cues, adults prioritize distributional information about the optionality of wh-fronting in French.

  • Wh-questions
  • Garden-path
  • Misinterpretation
  • Filled-gap dependency
  • Sentence revision
Citation (ISO format)
LASSOTTA, Romy, OMAKI, Akira, FRANCK, Julie. Developmental changes in misinterpretation of garden-path wh-questions in French. In: The quarterly journal of experimental psychology, 2016, vol. 69, n° 5, p. 829–854. doi: 10.1080/17470218.2015.1054845
Main files (1)
Article (Published version)
ISSN of the journal1747-0218

Technical informations

Creation02/23/2016 4:18:00 PM
First validation02/23/2016 4:18:00 PM
Update time03/15/2023 12:09:37 AM
Status update03/15/2023 12:09:36 AM
Last indexation10/19/2023 12:47:18 AM
All rights reserved by Archive ouverte UNIGE and the University of GenevaunigeBlack