This study is a fine-grained analysis of extensive empirical data on the automatization of explicitly learned rules of morphosyntax in a second language. Sixty-one subjects were taught four morphosyntactic rules and 32 vocabulary items in an artificial language. After they had reached criterion on a set of metalinguistic tests of grammar and vocabulary, they engaged in systematic, computer-controlled comprehension and production practice for 8 weeks. Comprehension practice consisted of choosing between pictures displayed on the computer screen to match a sentence; production practice consisted of typing the correct sentence corresponding to a picture. All subjects were taught the same rules and then practiced them, and all subjects had the same amount of comprehension and production practice, but which rules were practiced in comprehension and which in production varied between groups. Results show that the learning of morphosyntactic rules is highly skill-specific and that these skills develop very gradually over time, following the same power function learning curve as the acquisition of other cognitive skills. These results are consistent with current skill acquisition theory.
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