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Cognition. 1999 Mar 1;70(2):109-35.

Artificial grammar learning by 1-year-olds leads to specific and abstract knowledge.

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  • 1University of Arizona, Tucson 85721, USA.


Four experiments used the head-turn preference procedure to assess whether infants could extract and remember information from auditory strings produced by a miniature artificial grammar. In all four experiments, infants generalized to new structure by discriminating new grammatical strings from ungrammatical ones after less than 2 min exposure to the grammar. Infants acquired specific information about the grammar as demonstrated by the ability to discriminate new grammatical strings from those with illegal endpoints (Experiment 1). Infants also discriminated new grammatical strings from those with string-internal pairwise violations (Experiments 2 and 3). Infants in Experiment 4 abstracted beyond specific word order as demonstrated by the ability to discriminate new strings produced by their training grammar from strings produced by another grammar despite a change in vocabulary between training and test. We discuss the implications of these findings for the study of language acquisition.

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