Sex differences in syntactic development: Evidence from Cantonese-speaking pre-schoolers in Hong Kong

Hui LI, Shek Kam TSE

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper

Abstract

Utterances produced during spontaneous play activities by 180 Cantonese-speaking children, ranging in age from 3 to 5 years, were analysed with the focus on declaratives. Syntactic development was gauged in terms of changes in the mean length of utterance, sentence type and structure, syntactic complexity and verb pattern. Age-related developments in the length of utterance, type and structure, syntactic complexity and verb pattern were found. Significant sex differences were found in syntactic development, with girls outperforming boys in mean utterance length, some sentence types and structures and syntactic complexity, with a significant age-by-sex interaction in the group of four-years-olds. The period between age 3 and age 4 was identified as critical for syntactic development, as many linguistic changes occurred in this time. Growth in the ability to use compound sentences was found to be the most significant contributor to increased mean length of utterance. Biological, psychological and socio-contextual factors influencing these sex differences in language performance are explored and discussed. The generality of the educational implications is discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2002

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gender differences
China
play activities
gender

Citation

Li, H., & Tse, S. K. (2002, April). Sex differences in syntactic development: Evidence from Cantonese-speaking pre-schoolers in Hong Kong. Paper presented at the 1st International Symposium on Cognitive Neuroscience, Hong Kong, China.

Keywords

  • Development of Subject Knowledge
  • Chinese Language