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Syntactic awareness and verbal performance from preschool to fifth grade

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Children from preschool to fifth grade were given two independent series of language tasks. The first tested aural sentence memory and was designed to assess children's ability to exploit syntactic structure and semantic cohesion to facilitate sentence recall. The second tested children's syntactic awareness, as reflected in their ability to correct grammatically deviant sentences. Results showed increases with grade level both in children's syntactic awareness and in their use of linguistic structure in sentence recall. Further, syntactic awareness increased with age, independently of vocabulary age. Syntactic awareness was significantly related both to reading achievement and to the use of syntactic structure and semantic structure to facilitate sentence recall, even with the effects of vocabulary age and grade statistically controlled. Although strongly correlated with verbal ability, syntactic awareness appears to constitute a higher-order language skill that is associated with other aspects of verbal performance.

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Author information

Correspondence to Judith A. Bowey.

Additional information

This research was carried out at the University of Melbourne and was supported by a University of Melbourne Research Development Grant.

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Bowey, J.A. Syntactic awareness and verbal performance from preschool to fifth grade. J Psycholinguist Res 15, 285–308 (1986). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01067676

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  • Cognitive Psychology
  • Grade Level
  • Language Skill
  • Syntactic Structure
  • Verbal Ability