Dr. Legendre is currently conducting a series of studies aimed at understanding infants’ morphosyntactic competence, using preferential looking and pointing tasks to examine the representations of agreement morphology in French- and Spanish-speaking children.
This NSF-funded project is carried out in France and Mexico and its findings have been communicated in several journal publications and conference presentations, many of which are listed in Publications & Talks.
Jane’s current project investigates children’s ability to comprehend and produce complex questions. Previous researchers have shown that children make mistakes when asking a question such as “Who do you believe we should ask?” by saying something like “Who do you believe who we should ask?”. Furthermore, when asked a question such as “How did Emily tell Sarah what she bought?” children sometimes respond with what Emily bought. Jane conducted two separate experiments to investigate the validity of these claims. To investigate children’s errors of production, Jane created an interactive story which required children to ask characters complex questions. Children’s productions were mostly adult-like (“What do you believe we should look for?”), but also included non-adult like questions such as “What do you believe that can break the spell?” and “What do you believe what can break the spell?” To investigate children’s comprehension of complex questions, Jane presented children with short stories followed by a ‘tricky question’ posed by a puppet. Children overwhelmingly answered these questions correctly, with few exceptions. By carefully investigating these atypical questions and responses, Jane hopes to shed light on how children learn to produce and understand complex questions and what type of underlying representations might affect their learning processes.