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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractA central question in the study of language learning is how humans acquire syntactic categorical distinctions among words (e.g. noun, verb, etc.). Past research using miniature artificial grammars suggests that semantic information is not needed for this learning; distributional information alone can provide adequate input for learning. The current experiments extended this finding to a natural language. Adults who had never studied Russian listened to lists of Russian words for seven minutes. The words consisted of a content morpheme and a grammatical ending. The participants were not told the meanings of the words. Next they were tested on a series of legal and non-legal morpheme sequences, including sequences that were not in the training. Results showed that participants were able to distinguish between new legal and non-legal morpheme sequences, provided there were at least two category-markers in the input. This suggests that they were generalizing the words into categories. A corpus study showed that Russian probably contains the kind and quantity of markings required for category learning to take place. Reaction times were also analyzed.
Degree ProgramGraduate College