Idiomatic syntactic constructions and language learning.

TitleIdiomatic syntactic constructions and language learning.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2006
AuthorsKaschak MP, Saffran JR
JournalCogn Sci
Volume30
Issue1
Pagination43-63
Date Published2006 Jan 02
ISSN0364-0213
Abstract

This article explores the influence of idiomatic syntactic constructions (i.e., constructions whose phrase structure rules violate the rules that underlie the construction of other kinds of sentences in the language) on the acquisition of phrase structure. In Experiment 1, participants were trained on an artificial language generated from hierarchical phrase structure rules. Some participants were given exposure to an idiomatic construction (IC) during training, whereas others were not. Under some circumstances, the presence of an idiomatic construction in the input aided learners in acquiring the phrase structure of the language. Experiment 2 provides a replication of the first experiment and extends the findings by showing that idiomatic constructions that strongly violate the predictive dependencies that define the phrase structure of the language do not aid learners in acquiring the structure of the language. Together, our data suggest that (a) idiomatic constructions aid learners in acquiring the phrase structure of a language by highlighting relevant structural elements in the language, and (b) such constructions are useful cues to learning to the extent that learners can keep their knowledge of the idiomatic construction separate from their knowledge of the rest of the language.

DOI10.1207/s15516709cog0000_44
Alternate JournalCogn Sci
PubMed ID21702808