[PS-1.26] Early developing syntactic knowledge influences sequential statistical learning in infancy

Onnis, L. 1 , Thiessen, E. 2 , Hong, S. 3 & Lee, K. 3

1 Nanyang Technological University
2 Carnegie Mellon University
3 Asan Medical Center Seoul

Adults' linguistic background influences their sequential statistical learning of an artificial language characterized by conflicting forward-going and backward-going transitional probabilities. English-speaking adults favor backward-going transitional probabilities, consistent with the head-initial structure of English. Korean-speaking adults favor forward-going transitional probabilities, consistent with the head-final structure of Korean. These experiments assess when infants develop this directional bias. Seven-month-old infants showed no preference for forward-going or backward-going regularities. By 13 months, though, English-learning infants favor backward-going transitional probabilities over forward-going transitional probabilities, consistent with English-speaking adults. This indicates that statistical learning rapidly adapts to the predominant syntactic structure of the native language. Such adaptation may facilitate subsequent learning by highlighting statistical structures that are likely to be informative in the native linguistic environment.