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Linguistic complexity and performance*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  26 September 2008

Carlota S. Smith
University of Texas
Anne van Kleeck
University of Texas


This article reports an experimental investigation of the influence of linguistic factors on linguistic performance. The factors studied were interpretive complexity and surface length; they were expected to affect performance differentially, depending on the demands of the task. The stimulus sentences were three temporal adverbial structures wherein sentences high in interpretive complexity were low in surface length and vice versa. The experiment presented a toy-moving and an imitation task to children aged 3;6–6;0. The results show an interaction between type of linguistic complexity and type of linguistic performance. Sentences high in interpretive complexity were the most difficult in the toy-moving task and the easiest in the imitation task, and vice versa. The experiments suggest that different abilities are tapped by imitation and toy-moving tasks.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1986

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