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The Acquisition of Heritage Languages

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Academic Paper


Title: Infants can use distributional cues to form syntactic categories
Author: LouAnn Gerken
Email: click here TO access email
Homepage: http://www.u.arizona.edu/~gerken/
Institution: University of Arizona
Author: Rachel Wilson
Institution: University of Arizona
Author: William D. Lewis
Email: click here TO access email
Institution: Microsoft Research Institute
Linguistic Field: Psycholinguistics
Abstract: Nearly all theories of language development emphasize the importance of distributional cues for segregating words and phrases into syntactic categories like noun, feminine or verb phrase. However, questions concerning whether such cues can be used to the exclusion of referential cues have been debated. Using the headturn preference procedure, American children aged 1;5 were briefly familiarized with a partial Russian gender paradigm, with a subset of the paradigm members withheld. During test, infants listened on alternate trials to previously withheld grammatical items and ungrammatical items with incorrect gender markings on previously heard stems. Across three experiments, infants discriminated new grammatical from ungrammatical items, but like adults in previous studies, were only able to do so when a subset of familiarization items was double marked for gender category. The results suggest that learners can use distributional cues to category structure, to the exclusion of referential cues, from relatively early in the language learning process.

CUP AT LINGUIST

This article appears IN Journal of Child Language Vol. 32, Issue 2, which you can READ on Cambridge's site or on LINGUIST .



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