In both music and language incoming input can be predicted on the basis of the features of the input that has already been parsed. These types of structure-based predictions take place due to mechanisms of ‘online’ integration triggered by the structural combinatory features of the information already processed. Recently, it has been discussed whether these anticipation mechanisms, which are thought to be relevant for the acquisition of language-related skills such as reading and writing, are shared in language and musical rhythm (Guasti, Pagliarini, & Stucchi, 2017). This possibility may contribute to explain why deficits in reading and writing are associated with deficits in rhythmic processing, as it has been shown in children with Developmental Dyslexia (DD; Thomson et al., 2006; Thomson & Goswami, 2008). We investigated how morphosyntactic and rhythmic information triggers anticipation in language and music by administering a picture selection task and a rhythmic task to a group of 15 Italian monolingual children with a diagnosis of DD and to 15 age-matched controls (TD) (mean age: 10;1 years, SD=1.09 years). In the picture selection task children were presented with two pictures and heard sentences in which a gender-marked clitic pronoun or determiner provided information on a following agreeing noun (tocca la grande mela - touch the big apple); we manipulated the gender information associated with the nouns in three conditions: phonologically unmarked (G), phonologically marked (GP), phonologically marked and semantically determined (GPS); we measured accuracy and response times. In the rhythmic task children heard sequences of sounds, in which a warning tone provided information on the occurrence of a future sound (called the imperative). Participants were asked to tap in time with the imperative. Preliminary analysis revealed that the two groups did not differ significantly in the determiner processing task. However, in the clitic processing task, while DD children were slower in processing morphosyntactic information critical for anticipation in the G (p < .01) and GP (p < .05) conditions as compared to TD children, the two groups were equally efficient in using the semantic information (p = .40). Interestingly, DD children were also less accurate than TD controls in the rhythmic task. Moreover, only TD children exhibited a consistent negative asynchrony (also shown by adults; Aschersleben, 2002). Results suggest that DD and TD children make use of different anticipation strategies: while morphosyntactic combinatory information is used by TD children, children with DD seem to rely on semantic information. Furthermore, the difficulties encountered by DD children in using structure-based anticipation strategies do not seem to be limited to language, but to also extend to non-linguistic domains when the same type of anticipation skills are required.
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