Applied Psycholinguistics


The prompt hypothesis: Clarification requests as corrective input for grammatical errors

a1 Institute of Education, University of London
a2 University of Reading
a3 Royal Holloway University of London


The potential of clarification questions (CQs) to act as a form of corrective input for young children's grammatical errors was examined. Corrective responses were operationalized as those occasions when child speech shifted from erroneous to correct (E[rightward arrow]C) contingent on a clarification question. It was predicted that E[rightward arrow]C sequences would prevail over shifts in the opposite direction (C[rightward arrow]E), as can occur in the case of nonerror-contingent CQs. This prediction was tested via a standard intervention paradigm, whereby every 60 s a sequence of two clarification requests (either specific or general) was introduced into conversation with a total of 45 2- and 4-year-old children. For 10 categories of grammatical structure, E[rightward arrow]C sequences predominated over their C[rightward arrow]E counterparts, with levels of E[rightward arrow]C shifts increasing after two clarification questions. Children were also more reluctant to repeat erroneous forms than their correct counterparts, following the intervention of CQs. The findings provide support for Saxton's prompt hypothesis, which predicts that error-contingent CQs bear the potential to cue recall of previously acquired grammatical forms.

c1 Matthew Saxton, School of Psychology and Human Development, Institute of Education, University of London, 25 Woburn Square, London, WC1H 0AA, UK. E-mail: