Exemplar Variability Facilitates Rapid Learning of an Otherwise Unlearnable Grammar by Individuals With Language-Based Learning Disability Purpose Even without explicit instruction, learners are able to extract information about the form of a language simply by attending to input that reflects the underlying grammar. In this study, the authors explored the role of variability in this learning by asking whether varying the number of unique exemplars heard ... Research Article
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Research Article  |   April 01, 2013
Exemplar Variability Facilitates Rapid Learning of an Otherwise Unlearnable Grammar by Individuals With Language-Based Learning Disability
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Janne von Koss Torkildsen
    University of Arizona
  • Natalie S. Dailey
    University of Arizona
  • Jessica M. Aguilar
    University of Arizona
  • Rebecca Gómez
    University of Arizona
  • Elena Plante
    University of Arizona
  • Correspondence to Elena Plante: eplante@email.arizona.edu
  • Janne von Koss Torkildsen is now at the University of Bergen, Norway
    Janne von Koss Torkildsen is now at the University of Bergen, Norway×
  • Editor: Janna Oetting
    Editor: Janna Oetting×
  • Associate Editor: Ron Gillam
    Associate Editor: Ron Gillam×
Article Information
Language Disorders / Reading & Writing Disorders / Attention, Memory & Executive Functions / Language / Research Articles
Research Article   |   April 01, 2013
Exemplar Variability Facilitates Rapid Learning of an Otherwise Unlearnable Grammar by Individuals With Language-Based Learning Disability
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, April 2013, Vol. 56, 618-629. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2012/11-0125)
History: Received May 23, 2011 , Revised December 7, 2011 , Accepted July 6, 2012
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, April 2013, Vol. 56, 618-629. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2012/11-0125)
History: Received May 23, 2011; Revised December 7, 2011; Accepted July 6, 2012
Web of Science® Times Cited: 17

Purpose Even without explicit instruction, learners are able to extract information about the form of a language simply by attending to input that reflects the underlying grammar. In this study, the authors explored the role of variability in this learning by asking whether varying the number of unique exemplars heard by the learner affects learning of an artificial syntactic form.

Method Learners with normal language (n = 16) and language-based learning disability (LLD; n = 16) were exposed to strings of nonwords that represented an underlying grammar. Half of the learners heard 3 exemplars 16 times each (low variability group), and the other half of the learners heard 24 exemplars twice each (high variability group). Learners were then tested for recognition of items heard and generalization of the grammar with new nonword strings.

Results Only those learners with LLD who were in the high variability group were able to demonstrate generalization of the underlying grammar. For learners with normal language, both those in the high and the low variability groups showed generalization of the grammar, but relative effect sizes suggested a larger learning effect in the high variability group.

Conclusion The results demonstrate that the structure of the learning context can determine the ability to generalize from specific training items to novel cases.

Acknowledgment
Preparation of this work was supported by National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders Grant R01DC04726.
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