Date of Award:

5-2020

Document Type:

Dissertation

Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department:

Special Education and Rehabilitation

Committee

Ronald Gillam

Committee

Sandra Gillam

Committee

Sonia Manuel-Dupont

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between complex auditory working memory, syntactic knowledge, and complex sentence comprehension in bilingual and monolingual children using both offline (behavioral)and online(eye-tracking)measures.There were 19 children in the monolingual group and 19 children in the bilingual group with an average age of 11 years. The children listened to sentences, while looking at a screen with three images of the three nouns in the sentence. They were instructed to select the doer of the action (agent). Their eye movements were recorded as they completed this task. The four sentence types were: subject verb object (SVO), subject relative (SR), passive (PAS), and object relative (OR). Both groups of children had better sentence comprehension accuracy of SVO and SR sentences than PAS and OR sentences. Children with higher working memory tended to obtain better scores than children with lower working memory. This effect was strongest in the PAS and OR sentences. Additionally, for PAS and OR sentences, bilingual children with similar levels of working memory as the monolingual children obtained lower scores of sentence comprehension. Children with high working memory were slower to respond. Bilingual children selected the answers more quickly than the monolingual children. Children with high working memory focused on the agent less than children with low working memory. Bilingual children had mixed results relating to their focus of attention.

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