Journal of Psycholinguistic Research

, Volume 44, Issue 3, pp 287–307 | Cite as

Acquisition and Use of Linguistic Knowledge: Scrambling in Child Japanese as a Test Case

  • Utako Minai
  • Miwa Isobe
  • Reiko Okabe


The current study investigates preschool-age children’s comprehension of scrambled sentences in Japanese. While scrambling has been known to be challenging for children, biasing them to exhibit non-adult-like interpretations (e.g., Hayashibe in Descr Appl Linguist 8:1–18, 1975; Sano in Descr Appl Linguist 10:213–233, 1977; Suzuki in Jpn J Educ Psychol 25(3):56–61, 1977), children are able to interpret scrambled sentences in an adult-like way when the pragmatics is enriched in the experiments (Otsu in Acquisition studies in generative grammar, John Benjamins, Amsterdam, pp 253–264, 1994). These findings suggest that children’s difficulty in comprehending scrambling may be due to processing difficulties (Suzuki in J Psycholinguist Res 42(2), 119–137, 2013), such as the Lexical-ordering Strategy bias (Bever in Cognition and language development, Wiley, New York, pp 279–352, 1970), rather than their lack of the linguistic knowledge of scrambling. The current study revealed that children are indeed able to utilize prosodic information to interpret scrambled sentences in an adult-like way. Our findings provide converging evidence in favor of the proposal that children’s grammatical knowledge of scrambling is intact, although they are more vulnerable than adults to processing difficulties that hinder their ability to successfully interpret scrambled sentences.


Scrambling Prosody Child Japanese 



We would like to express our gratitude to the children, parents and staff of Kazenoko Nursery School, Tokyo, Japan, for agreeing to let us conduct our study there, and to the audience of the Generative Approaches for Language Acquisition Conference 2011 for feedback on an earlier version of the study.


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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of LinguisticsUniversity of KansasLawrenceUSA
  2. 2.Training Center for Foreign Languages and DictionTokyo University of the ArtsTaito-ku, TokyoJapan
  3. 3.College of LawNihon UniversityChiyoda-ku, TokyoJapan

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