The cat has a… : Children’s use of rhyme to Guide sentence completion

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Elsevier B. V.


In order to uncover whether rhyme can be a useful cue for preschoolers in anticipating upcoming words heard in speech, we tested 2- to 5-year-old children (N = 74) with a naturalistic “story-game.” Children heard 24 rhymed stanzas, each with the last word left off, and were given a 3-alternative picture choice of how to complete each one. Children were able to correctly finish the stanzas with the rhymed target pictures significantly more often than their peers in an unrhymed control condition. These results demonstrated that even without explicit training or awareness of rhyme, young children can use it to anticipate familiar words in never-before-heard stories. In addition, age was positively correlated with performance, indicating that the ability to take advantage of predictability to complete a sentence may develop over time as both children’s exposure to the patterning of rhyme increases and their overall verbal skills grow.