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Comprehension of the copula: preschoolers (and sometimes adults) ignore subject–verb agreement during sentence processing

  • Benjamin DAVIES (a1), Nan XU RATTANASONE (a1) and Katherine DEMUTH (a1)


Subject–verb (SV) agreement helps listeners interpret the number condition of ambiguous nouns (The sheep is/are fat), yet it remains unclear whether young children use agreement to comprehend newly encountered nouns. Preschoolers and adults completed a forced choice task where sentences contained singular vs. plural copulas (Where is/are the [novel noun(s)]?). Novel nouns were either morphologically unambiguous (tup/tups) or ambiguous (/geks/ = singular: gex / plural: gecks). Preschoolers (and some adults) ignored the singular copula, interpreting /ks/-final words as plural, raising questions about the role of SV agreement in learners’ sentence comprehension and the status of is in Australian English.


Corresponding author

*Corresponding author: Department of Linguistics, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia. E-mail:


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Comprehension of the copula: preschoolers (and sometimes adults) ignore subject–verb agreement during sentence processing

  • Benjamin DAVIES (a1), Nan XU RATTANASONE (a1) and Katherine DEMUTH (a1)


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