Lab News Publication

“Variation learning in phonology and morphosyntax” published in Cognition

Youngah, Jon, and Samuel’s article, “Variation learning in phonology and morphosyntax”, has been published in the journal “Cognition”.

Phonological variation includes phonetic variation, which is influenced by articulatory or perceptual factors, whereas morphosyntactic variation is not. The researchers aimed to identify whether learning differences exist when children are exposed to phonological or morphosyntactic patterns with equal complexity. Cantonese-speaking children were taught an artificial language involving rounding harmony and gender agreement, with patterns applying variably or categorically.

The results showed that in the categorical learning conditions, participants had comparable rates of harmony and agreement. However, in the variable phonological learning conditions, children’s application of harmony exceeded the rate of exposure in training, suggesting a bias towards phonetically grounded rounding harmony. In the variable morphosyntactic condition, participants applied agreement below the rate of exposure.

These findings reveal a qualitative difference between learning in the two domains, with phonological learning being influenced by substantive grounding, while morphosyntactic learning is not. This research contributes to our understanding of language acquisition in children and may have implications for educational practices and interventions.

The article can be accessed here until 13 September 2023.

Do, Y., Havenhill, J., & Sze, S. S. L. (2023). Variation learning in phonology and morphosyntax. Cognition239, 105573.