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Simultaneous acquisition of words and syntax: Effects of exposure condition and declarative memory

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Article number1168
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>12/07/2018
<mark>Journal</mark>Frontiers in Psychology
Number of pages11
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


This study examined the simultaneous acquisition of vocabulary and grammar by adult learners and the role of exposure condition and declarative memory. Most experimental studies investigating the acquisition of artificial or natural languages focus on either vocabulary or grammar, but not both. However, a systematic investigation of the simultaneous learning of multiple linguistic features is important given that it mirrors language learning outside the lab. Native English speakers were exposed to an artificial language under either incidental or intentional exposure conditions. Participants had to learn both novel pseudowords and word order patterns while also processing stimulus sentences for meaning. The results showed that adult learners are able to rapidly acquire basic syntactic information of a novel language while processing the input for meaning (plausibility judgments) and attempting to learn novel vocabulary at the same time. The results further indicated that exposure condition (incidental versus intentional) made no difference in terms of either vocabulary or grammar learning gains. Findings also revealed that learners developed explicit, not implicit, knowledge of lexis and syntax. Finally, the results indicated that individuals' declarative memory capacity was not related to vocabulary learning but only to grammar learning. Our study underscores the importance of studying the simultaneous acquisition of different language features and from different perspectives of comprehension versus production, incidental versus intentional learning conditions, implicit/explicit knowledge, and individual differences in cognitive abilities.