ERP evidence for phonological and orthographic encoding of novel words after minimal exposure

Eiteljoerge, S. 1 , Bobb, S. 2, 1 , Schreiner, M. 1 & Mani, N. 1

1 University Goettingen
2 Gordon College

A crucial difference between language learning in adults and language learning in infants is the additional role of literacy in adult learning. While there are numerous studies that have researched the role of reading in L2 learning, most studies have done so by also looking at the involvement of meaning. But what precisely is the independent contribution of reading and listening to learning? In the first study, participants read sentences in an artificial language and then listened to audio recordings of the language. We recorded ERPs while participants heard previously read words embedded in the auditory stream of the artificial language. The ERP record to the auditory presentation showed sensitivity to previously read words, even at the very first presentation. In the second study, participants listened to audio recordings of the artificial language and then read sentences. Similar to Study 1, they showed sensitivity to words, this time previously heard words that now appeared in text. Thus, minimal exposure to language through silent reading and listening allowed participants to phonologically and orthograpically encode and subsequently recognize new words. Strikingly, the results mimic a similar pattern found in infant language learning, suggesting adults have continued access to a common learning mechanism.