Variation Sets Facilitate Artificial Language Learning

Abstract

Variation set structure — partial alignment of successive utterances in child-directed speech — has been shown to correlate with progress in the acquisition of syntax by children. The present study demonstrates that arranging a certain proportion of utterances in a training corpus in variation sets facilitates word segmentation and phrase structure learning in miniature artifi- cial languages by adults. Our findings have implications for understanding the mechanisms of L1 acquisition by children, and for the development of more efficient algorithms for automatic language acquisition, as well as better methods for L2 instruction.

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Shimon Edelman
Cornell University

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