Jordan Sciascia, Linguistics and Languages

Rules Learning in Language: Why babies are better at learning language than adults

How do young children learn the complex rules of language? Prior research has shown that infants as young as 7 months of age can learn simple rules, such as abstracting an ABB pattern after hearing strings of sounds “ga-ti-ti; gi-la-la, ta-ni-ni” (Marcus et al., 1999). But later in development, research on visual (non-language) rules showed that 3-year-olds ignored rules in favor of matching objects. (Christie and Gentner, 2014). Here I asked whether toddlers are able to learn rules in language, and what the implications are for language acquisition. Contrary to predictions, children, even adults, did not strongly prefer either rule matches. I discussed the implication of these results for language acquisition.