Learning of Two Artificial Grammar Structures Simultaneously by Children

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We investigated how children learn statistical regularities in complex sequences of nonlinguistic stimuli. This ability may be based on a fundamental learning mechanism that allows learning of both linguistic and nonlinguistic information. The purpose of this study was to (a) examine whether children can learn two different rules simultaneously from one stream of stimuli, (b) investigate whether previous experience learning two different sets of linguistic rules in real life (i.e. bilingualism) facilitates learning two rules simultaneously in a laboratory task (c) see whether the learning is stimulus-specific or abstract; we ask if children can generalize the rule learned with one type of stimuli (e.g., visual shapes) to a new set of stimuli (e.g., auditory tones). Participants are school-aged monolingual children who speak English and bilingual children who speak Spanish and English. ANCOVA will be used for the data analysis. Children see sequences of stimuli drawn from two distinct artificial grammars: A (presented with visual shapes) and B (presented with auditory tones). In a test session, all stimuli are presented with shapes for half of the children and tones for the others. Children decide which sequences follow the same rules as those from the training session-- those that conform to 1) Grammar A, 2) Grammar B, and 3) a novel Grammar C. We predict that children successfully learn two grammars simultaneously, and will generalize the learned rules across stimulus type. We also expect bilingual children to outperform monolingual children. These results will provide evidence that a general learning mechanism is responsible for acquiring abstract information about regularities in sequences of both linguistic and nonlinguistic stimuli. Additionally, it suggests that this mechanism is sufficiently developed in children to allow learning of two distinct grammars simultaneously, and that previous experience with multiple grammar structures, as possessed by bilinguals, can strengthen this ability.

Keywords: Children, Language, Bilingual, Artificial Grammar
Stream: Literacy, Language, Multiliteracies; Languages Education and Second Language Learning
Presentation Type: 30 minute Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.

John David Rudoy

Doctoral Candidate, Neuroscience Program
Psychology Department, Northwestern University

Evanston, IL, USA

John Rudoy is a Neuroscience PhD candidate at Northwestern University. He studies the cognitive and neural processes of memory formation, maintenance, and retrieval in human subjects using behavioral, neuropsychological, and electroencephalography methods.

Asst. Prof., Dr Dongsun Yim

Assistant Professor, Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders
School of Communication, Northwestern University

Evanston, IL, USA

Dongsun Yim studies how language learning and nonlinguistic cognitive processing are linked and whether and how limitations in nonlinguistic cognitive processing skills potentially affect language difficulties in children. Her research questions are answered through working with monolingual children and bilingual children with and without language impairment. The ultimate research goal is to find a better way to diagnose language impairment in linguistically diverse children and effectively treat these children.

Ref: L09P1148