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.

2 Posters at LabPhon 14

It’s a busy week for the Language and Learning Lab. In addition to the paper that just came out, we have some ongoing work being presented at LabPhon 14 in Tokyo. The first is on Friday, July 25, in Poster Session 1. It’s P1-11 “Learning sound categories with phonotactics” by M. Noguchi and C. Hudson Kam. The second is on Sunday, July 27, in Poster Session 3. It’s P3-28 “Phonotactic learning and its interaction with speech segmentation” by A. Black and M. Noguchi. Phd student Masaki Noguchi is presenting both of them. Stop by and check them out if you’re there. If not, just email for a copy.

Carla Hudson Kam talking at NIU on Apr 30: Input, ‘intake’, and the adult language learner

I’m visiting Northern Illinois University this week, as part of serving as a mentor in their PI Academy. I’ll be working with Karen Lichtman in the Department of Foreign Languages and Literature. I’m looking forward to the visit, and to being part of this really innovative program.

As part of my involvement, I’ll be giving a talk on some of my work. I’ve chosen to talk about work most related to Karen’s own (really interesting!) research program. Which means talking about work I’ve never talked about before (although thankfully, Amy Finn, the former student who did much of the work, has). It’s especially exciting to me because I’m bringing together work by 2 PhD students at 2 different universities, in addition to work done by 2 undergraduates, again, from both UC Berkeley and UBC. Given the way we write papers, things can appear as a bunch of unrelated projects, when really there is a very programmatic thread underlying them all, and it’s been fun to string that thread through the studies while working on the talk.

The talk is entitled “Input, ‘intake’, and the adult language learner”.

Here’s the abstract: Differences in outcomes between child and adult language learners have long been noted – in particular, the fact that people who start learning a language as children usually reach a higher level of proficiency in the language than those who start learning later in life. A variety of explanations for this discrepancy in outcomes have been proposed, ranging from differences in neural plasticity to differences in the levels of personal identification with the new and old cultures, most of which find some support in the data. One factor that has received relatively less attention is input differences, the idea that children and adults tend to get very different linguistic input. People have pointed out, for instance, that the context or environment in which adults versus children learn obviously will affect their input, which then has the potential to affect learning outcomes. But there is another aspect to input, namely, how learners engage with and process the input they receive, that can be described as affecting their intake, not just their input. These are things internal to the learner, like the nature and strength of prior knowledge and maturationally controlled cognitive/brain changes. In this talk, I will present data from several studies using miniature artificial language methods demonstrating how learning outcomes for adult learners are affected by their intake, and discuss how these intake effects are related to maturation and so age of acquisition.

“The adolescent peak and sound change”: paper being presented by PhD student Emily Sadlier-Brown at CWSL2014

Emily Sadlier-Brown will be presenting a paper entitled “The Adolescent Peak and Sound Change” at the inaugural Cascadia Workshop in Sociolinguistics at the University of Victoria tomorrow, March 1, at 4:15 pm. It’ll be in HHB 116. The paper covers some results of a computational model of a change in progress. It’s work done with Scott Mackie, another PhD student in the department, and me (Carla Hudson Kam).

Cog Sci 2013

There looks to be lots of really interesting work being presented at CogSci2013 in Berlin this weekend.

Our lab is being represented by Sarah Wilson (a former Berkeley PhD student), who is presenting on Friday, August 2, at 4:30 pm, in the Language Acquisition 1 session.

“Acquisition of phrase structure in an artificial visual grammar”. As promised, we doubled the data, so the talk will be a little different than the proceedings paper.

Sarah Wilson’s Cog Sci Society presentation

As promised, more information about a tweet:
Lab Alum Sarah Wilson will be presenting “Acquisition of Phrase Structure in an Artificial Visual Grammar” at the CogSci 2013 in Berlin this summer.

Here’s the abstract:
Recent studies showing learners can induce phrase structure from distributional patterns (Thompson & Newport, 2007; Saffran, 2001) suggest that phrase structure need not be innate. Here, we ask if this learning ability is restricted to language. Specifically, we ask if phrase structure can be induced from non-linguistic visual arrays and further, whether learning is assisted by abstract category information. In an artificial visual grammar paradigm where co-occurrence relationships exist between categories of objects rather than individual items, participants preferred phrase-relevant pairs over frequency-matched non-phrase pairs. Additionally, participants generalized phrasal relationships to novel pairs, but only in the cued condition. Taken together these results show that learners can acquire phrase structure in a non-linguistic system, and that cues improve learning.

The plan is to collect some more data for this project over the summer too, so stay tuned for more updates.