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Learning non-adjacent regularities at age 0 ; 71


One important mechanism suggested to underlie the acquisition of grammar is rule learning. Indeed, infants aged 0 ; 7 are able to learn rules based on simple identity relations (adjacent repetitions, ABB: “wo fe fe” and non-adjacent repetitions, ABA: “wo fe wo”, respectively; Marcus et al., 1999). One unexplored issue is whether young infants are able to process both adjacent and non-adjacent repetitions. As the previous studies always compared the two types of repetition structures directly, the ability to learn only one of them was sufficient for successful discrimination in these tasks. The present study reports two experiments, in which we test the ability of infants aged 0 ; 7 to discriminate adjacent and non-adjacent repetition structures against random controls (ABB vs. ABC and ABA vs. ABC). We show that, contrary to some previous proposals, infants aged 0 ; 7 successfully discriminate both repetition types from random controls, but show no spontaneous preference for either of them.

Corresponding author
Address for correspondence: Judit Gervain, Universite Paris Descartes –45 rue des Saints-Peres, Paris 75006, France. e-mail:
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The work was funded by the ANR Jeunes Chercheurs et Jeunes Chercheuses Grant nr. 21373 and a Fyssen Foundation Start-Up grant to JG and NSERC 81103 to JW.

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Journal of Child Language
  • ISSN: 0305-0009
  • EISSN: 1469-7602
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-child-language
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