Monday, November 9, 2015

Constraints on Implicit Learning of Grammatical Form-Meaning Connections

Leung, J. H., & Williams, J. N. (2012). Constraints on Implicit Learning of Grammatical FormMeaning Connections. Language Learning62(2), 634-662.

Implicit learning is learning that takes place without intention or conscious awareness. Humans are able to extract and learn from patterns in the environment, without any realization of this learning.  In this study, Leung and Williams focused on the implicit learning of grammatical form-meaning connections – an area of implicit learning research where there is still much to investigate. 

A form-meaning connection takes place when the assignment of a meaning to an unfamiliar word is made.  In the case of this study, Leung and Williams used an artificial language with four determiner-like words.  These determiner words were used in front of a noun to encode whether the noun was near or far, or animate or inanimate.  Participants in this study were told all four of the novel determiners along with the near or far rule, however, they were not told about the animate or inanimate rule. 

The researchers conducted two experiments in which participants were shown two side-by-side pictures on a computer screen.  Participants were asked to click the correct image after hearing the corresponding phrase.  Each phrase involved one of the four determiner words, followed by the noun of one of the picture on the screen.  After training, participants completed a test phase in which participants who had learned the implicit rule for animate or inanimate markers would be at some advantage in terms of their reaction time. Results provided implicit learning of the animate/inanimate rule in this experiment. In the second experiment, involving implicit learning of relative size, no learning was observed. Leung and Williams posited that this might have been because some meanings are more susceptible to implicit learning than others, based on the characteristics of the language being learned.

Although the results provide some evidence of implicit learning of form-meaning connections, it is clear that this method of learning is slower than explicitly teaching the rule.    

Blogger: Alisha Johnson; Alisha is an undergraduate these student in the Language and Working Memory Lab               

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