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Using statistics to learn words and grammatical categories: how high frequency words assist language acquisition

Research output: Contribution to conference - Without ISBN/ISSN Conference paperpeer-review

Publication date08/2016
<mark>Original language</mark>English
Event38th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society - Philadelphia, United States
Duration: 11/09/201313/09/2014


Conference38th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society
Abbreviated titleCogSci 2016
Country/TerritoryUnited States


Recent studies suggest that high-frequency words may benefit speech segmentation (Bortfeld, Morgan, Golinkoff, & Rathbun, 2005) and grammatical categorisation (Monaghan, Christiansen, & Chater, 2007). To date, these tasks have been examined separately, but not together. We familiarised adults with continuous speech comprising repetitions of target words, and compared learning to a language in which targets appeared alongside high-frequency marker words. Marker words reliably preceded targets, and distinguished them into two otherwise unidentifiable categories. Participants completed a 2AFC segmentation test, and a similarity judgement categorisation test. We tested transfer to a wordpicture mapping task, where words from each category were used either consistently or inconsistently to label actions/objects. Participants segmented the speech successfully, but only demonstrated effective categorisation when speech contained high-frequency marker words. The advantage of marker words extended to the early stages of the transfer task. Findings indicate the same high-frequency words may assist speech segmentation and grammatical categorisation