Aging and the Statistical Learning of Grammatical Form Classes

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Abstract

Language learners must place unfamiliar words into categories, often with few explicit indicators about when and how that word can be used grammatically. Reeder, Newport, and Aslin (2013) showed that college students can learn grammatical form classes from an artificial language by relying solely on distributional information (i.e., contextual cues in the input). Here, 2 experiments revealed that healthy older adults also show such statistical learning, though they are poorer than young at distinguishing grammatical from ungrammatical strings. This finding expands knowledge of which aspects of learning vary with aging, with potential implications for second language learning in late adulthood.

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