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Semantic cues in language learning: an artificial language study with adult and child learners

Brown, Helen; Smith, Kenny; Samara, Anna; Wonnacott, Elizabeth; (2021) Semantic cues in language learning: an artificial language study with adult and child learners. Language, Cognition and Neuroscience 10.1080/23273798.2021.1995612. (In press). Green open access

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Abstract

Grammatical regularities may correlate with semantics; e.g. grammatical gender is often partially predictable from the noun's semantics. We explore whether learners generalise over semantic cues, and whether the extent of exposure (1 versus 4 sessions) and number of exemplars for each semantic class (type-frequency) affect this. Six-year-olds and adults were exposed to semi-artificial languages where nouns co-occurred with novel particles, with particle usage fully or partially determined by the semantics of the nouns. Both adults and children generalised to novel nouns when semantic cues were fully consistent. Adults (but not children) also generalised when cues were partially consistent. Generalisation increased with exposure, however there was no evidence that increasing type-frequency (i.e. more nouns per semantic class) increased generalisation. Post-experiment interviews also suggested that successful generalisation depended on explicit awareness. These results suggest that semantic cues are particularly difficult for children to exploit during the early stages of language acquisition.

Type: Article
Title: Semantic cues in language learning: an artificial language study with adult and child learners
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1080/23273798.2021.1995612
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1080/23273798.2021.1995612
Language: English
Additional information: © 2021 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Keywords: Artificial language learning; Language acquisition; Statistical learning; Semantic cues; Child language acquisition
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Language and Cognition
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10142911
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