AdvisorGomez, Rebecca L
Committee ChairGomez, Rebecca L
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractLearners are exquisitely attuned to statistical information in their language input. We tested how prior experience impacts such sensitivity, particularly whether prior experience serves as a bootstrap by enabling acquisition of more complex structure. Experiments 1 and 2 tested whether giving adult learners experience with adjacent category-dependencies in an artificial language facilitates subsequent learning of a novel language containing more complex nonadjacent dependencies. Prior experience had a facilitating effect, both when it preceded exposure to the nonadjacent language by just a few minutes (Experiment 1), and also by 24 hours (Experiment 2). Prior experience with the vocabulary and prosodic characteristics of the language did not facilitate more complex learning. Experiments 3 and 4 tested whether infants also benefit from prior experience in learning nonadjacent dependencies between categories. While 12-month-olds learn adjacent dependencies between word categories (GÃ³mez & Lakusta, 2004), they do not track nonadjacent word dependencies until 15 months (GÃ³mez & Maye, 2005). We asked whether experience with adjacent word-category dependencies enables 12-month-olds to generalize these relations to nonadjacent occurrences. Infants were familiarized to an artificial language containing adjacent category dependencies, and were habituated to strings in which those dependencies were nonadjacent. Infants dishabituated to strings containing violations of the nonadjacent dependencies when the dependencies had been adjacent during previous familiarization (Experiment 3), and when they were novel (Experiment 4). Infants familiarized to a language lacking co-occurrence restrictions, but otherwise matched to the experimental language, failed to become sensitive to the nonadjacent category dependencies during habituation. These findings demonstrate that prior experience can bootstrap acquisition of more complex language structure.