Successful written subject–verb agreement: an online analysis of the procedure used by students in Grades 3, 5 and 12
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This study was designed to (1) investigate the procedure responsible for successful written subject–verb agreement, and (2) describe how it develops across grades. Students in Grades 3, 5 and 12 were asked to read noun–noun–verb sentences aloud (e.g., Le chien des voisins mange [The dog of the neighbors eats]) and write out the verb inflections. Some of the nouns differed in number, thus inducing attraction errors. Results showed that third graders were successful because they implemented a declarative procedure requiring regressive fixations on the subject noun while writing out the inflection. A dual-step procedure (Hupet, Schelstraete, Demaeght, & Fayol, 1996) emerged in Grade 5, and was fully efficient by Grade 12. This procedure, which couples an automatized agreement rule with a monitoring process operated within working memory (without the need for regressive fixations), was found to trigger a mismatch asymmetry (singular–plural > plural–singular) in Grade 5. The time course of written subject–verb agreement, the origin of agreement errors and differences between the spoken and written modalities are discussed.
KeywordsSubject–verb agreement Written production Attraction errors Online analysis Eye movements
This research was funded partly by the Early Literacy in the Development of Early Language (ELDEL) European Initial Training Network; by an ANR Grant from the French Ministry of Research (Dynamics of Orthographic Processing, DyTO) and the CPER grant from Poitou–Charentes region. The authors would like to thank the schools for their contributions (Ecole Paul Bert in Poitiers, Ecole Paul Bert in Cognac, and Lycée Joseph Desfontaines in Melle, France), Elizabeth Portier for the English translation of the manuscript, and the University of Paris-Est Créteil for bearing the cost of the translation.
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