[PS-3.4]Does explicit instruction facilitate the acquisition of a novel language? Insights from cross- situational statistical learning

Braungart, K. 1 , Monaghan, P. 2 , Kaup, B. 1 & Rebuschat, P. 2

1 University of Tübingen
2 Lancaster University

In this study, we investigated whether explicit instruction promotes different aspects of language learning and if so, which kind of explicit instruction is most promising. We used a cross situational learning paradigm with Latin sentences (with varying word endings for singular/plural and subject/object). Participants were presented with two scenes each containing one or two agents and patients performing an action while hearing a sentence, and were asked to indicate which picture matched the meaning of the sentence. No feedback was given, learning to map sentences and pictures was accomplished by keeping track of cross-trial statistics.
We tested three groups of participants (N = 90). The implicit group performed the CSL task without knowing about the sentence structure. The partially-explicit group was informed that word endings indicated agent-patient assignment. The fully-explicit group was pre-taught the morphological endings and their function. Learning of vocabulary, morphology and syntax was assessed by a battery of tests.
Results suggest that only the fully-explicit instruction about subject/object endings promoted their acquisition, whereas partially-explicit and implicit instruction did not. All groups acquired the singular/plural distinction, though not instructed about it. Learners in the fully explicit group outperformed learners of the other two groups with regard to vocabulary acquisition.