Why Segmentation Matters: Experience-Driven Segmentation Errors Impair “Morpheme” Learning – New paper out in JEP:LMC

I’m happy to announce a new paper just out on-line in JEP:LMC entitled “Why Segmentation Matters: Experience-Driven Segmentation Errors Impair
“Morpheme” Learning
“, by Amy Finn and Carla Hudson Kam.* (Warning: it’s not open access.)

Here’s the abstract: “We ask whether an adult learner’s knowledge of their native language impedes statistical learning in a new language beyond just word segmentation (as previously shown). In particular, we examine the impact of native-language word-form phonotactics on learners’ ability to segment words into their component morphemes and learn phonologically triggered variation of morphemes. We find that learning is impaired when words and component morphemes are structured to conflict with a learner’s native language phonotactic system, but not when native-language phonotactics do not conflict with morpheme boundaries in the artificial language. A learner’s native-language knowledge can therefore have a cascading impact affecting word segmentation and the morphological variation that relies upon proper segmentation. These results show that getting word segmentation right early in learning is deeply important for learning other aspects of language, even those (morphology) that are known to pose a great
difficulty for adult language learners.”

(Finn, A. S., & Hudson Kam, C. L. (2015, March 2). Why Segmentation Matters: Experience-Driven Segmentation Errors Impair “Morpheme” Learning. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition. Advance online publication. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/xlm0000114)

*2015 is getting off to a pretty great start, and everyone in the lab is happy about that, but it’s worth keeping in mind that both papers out so far this year are work that’s been in progress for a very long time.

When It Hurts (and Helps) to Try: The Role of Effort in Language Learning – New paper out in PLOS ONE

I am so happy to be able to announce the publication of “When It Hurts (and Helps) to Try: The Role of Effort in Language Learning“, just out in PLOS ONE. This is another piece by former student Amy Finn, PhD, currently a post doc at MIT.

Here’s the abstract:
Compared to children, adults are bad at learning language. This is counterintuitive; adults outperform children on most measures of cognition, especially those that involve effort (which continue to mature into early adulthood). The present study asks whether these mature effortful abilities interfere with language learning in adults and further, whether interference occurs equally for aspects of language that adults are good (word-segmentation) versus bad (grammar) at learning. Learners were exposed to an artificial language comprised of statistically defined words that belong to phonologically defined categories (grammar). Exposure occurred under passive or effortful conditions. Passive learners were told to listen while effortful learners were instructed to try to 1) learn the words, 2) learn the categories, or 3) learn the category-order. Effortful learners showed an advantage for learning words while passive learners showed an advantage for learning the categories. Effort can therefore hurt the learning of categories.

Thanks to PLOS ONE for a great experience. Thanks also to Michael Ramscar, who gave very thoughtful and helpful commentary along the way. (He served as a reviewer, more than once. And no, it’s not a case of conflict of interest. He signs his reviews.)

Open Access publication.