Project Details


Despite drastic differences on the surface of various languages, people seem to master the meaning of all kinds of words, including those expressing logical relationships, in their native language without a problem. To investigate how typically developing children learn to comprehend the sometimes intricate logical expressions by the age of three of four, and to determine whether the language acquisition is supported by predispositions or learning experiences, comprehension and acquisition data from native speakers of different languages are needed. Because no studies have attempted to systematically examine the acquisition of logical expressions in Mandarin with behavioral and neurophysiological measurements together, the proposed project aims to fill this vacuum. Specifically, we focus on comprehension of the Mandarin words 任何 and 什麼 in various speech acts, as these two words are semantically identical in statements with a number of different syntactic structures, but only the latter can serve an interrogative function in sentences of information-seeking questions.With eight sets of behavioral experiments employing the Question-Statement Task, the project first aims to document the comprehension of the Mandarin words 任何 and 什麼 in sentences with predicate clauses, with Free Choice items, and with antecedent and consequent clauses in mature speakers. Taken the performance of mature speakers as the benchmark, the proposal then aims to chart the developmental trajectories of the Mandarin words 任何 and 什麼 in preschool children at the ages of 3-, 4-, and 5-years old in corresponding experiments. To elucidate the neurophysiological mechanisms underlying sentence comprehension, two sets of magnetoencephalography (MEG) experiments and two sets of event-related potentials (ERPs) experiments are proposed to be conducted in adults and in preschool (3- and 5-year-old) children, respectively, to measure participants’ brain responses to 任何 and 什麼 when they perform a catch-word detection task. The behavioral and neurophysiological responses from preschool children are compared with those from adults to indicate whether and when young learners of Mandarin Chinese exhibit competence as mature speakers.The findings from these neuroimaging experiments would inform us whether and when young children comprehend logical expressions in a similar manner as adults. Based on the findings from the proposed experiments, we would be able to provide critical evidence to be compared with that from other languages and to provide important insight on the issues of linguistic universal and specific principles in comprehension and acquisition of logical expressions in various speech acts.
Effective start/end date1/08/1631/07/17

UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This project contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 4 - Quality Education
  • SDG 17 - Partnerships for the Goals


  • Negative polarity items
  • question words
  • magnetoencephalography
  • event-related potentials


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