Comparing Complex Syntax Across Popular Children's Television Shows

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Madison Burnett, Class of 2018


Studies indicate that certain television shows, such as Sesame Street and Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, can positively impact a child’s thinking and social skills (Mares and Pan, 2015; Rasmussen, 2016). This study considers syntactic content of popular children’s television shows to make predictions of their underlying linguistic value. Therefore, the research questions are: Does Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood have more complex syntactic utterances than Paw Patrol? Does the number of mental state verbs used correlate with complex syntax? Results indicate that Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood consistently uses more complex syntax and mental state verbs than Paw Patrol, and that mental state verb use does significantly correlate with complex syntax. Implications for child language learning are discussed.

Comments from Mentors

“Madison Burnett is a brilliant student. In class, she added to the classroom discussions by sharing thoughtful comments. I was delighted to serve on her thesis committee. She worked hard to analyze data and eloquently presented her findings. Madison did an amazing job supporting the rationale of her study. I believe that Madison will go on to lead our profession.”

Danielle Brimo 

 “Madison’s service work in the community demonstrates her dedication to improving the lives of others. For our class, she mentored and tutored children. She wrote about this work: ‘We started our service with intentions to build relationships with the students, gain a deep understanding of their background and culture, and to apply our knowledge of empathy in the real world. We took initiatives to talk to the children individually and appreciate each of them. As we became familiar with each of them, we harmonized the classroom by encouraging children to be inclusive of others.’ Madison strove to learn more about ethical and just interaction with the community through her service. She wisely stated that we must ‘actively engage with people and dare to imagine the lives of others.’

 Madison is also a strong researcher, writer, and presenter. She is intellectually curious and capable of doing quality research. She strives to create the best possible work and is eager to gain knowledge, ideas, and research skills. Madison seizes opportunities to share her work and presents with confidence and poise. I have little doubt that she will be a worthy contributor to the scholarly community.”

Wendy Williams 

 “Working with Madison was a privilege, as she has proven to be a genuinely exceptional student. She is goal-oriented, confident, analytical, and clearly on her way to becoming a leader in the field of speech-language pathology. She balances the investigative and intuitive aspects of the field well; Madison interacts well with others and is a stellar representative of TCU’s program. One of the most unique qualities Madison possesses, however, is her genuine interest in communication from a scientific perspective. No other student from my research lab has returned from over ten hours of coding and said, ‘You know, I really enjoy complex syntax coding and would be happy to add some more to my project.’ Her project, evaluating the complex syntax content of children’s television was both interesting and important in our technology-driven age. I look forward to watching as her career progresses.” 

– Emily Lund


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Harris College of Nursing and Health Sciences