Samara, Singh, & Wonnacott (pre-print). Statistical learning and spelling: Evidence from an incidental learning experiment with children

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Description: Statistical learning processes–akin to those seen in spoken language acquisition (Saffran, Aslin, & Newport, 1996)–may be important for the development of literacy, particularly spelling development. One previous study provides direct evidence for this process: Samara and Caravolas (2014) demonstrated that 7-year-olds generalize over permissible letter contexts (graphotactics) in novel word-like stimuli under incidental learning conditions. However, unlike in actual orthography, conditioning contexts in Samara and Caravolas’ (2014) stimuli comprised perfectly correlated, redundant cues in both word-initial and word-final positions. The current study explores whether 7-year-olds can extract such constraints in the absence of redundant cues. Since theories of literacy development predict greater sensitivity to restrictions within word-final units, we also contrast learning in word-initial and word-final units. We demonstrate that–for 7-year-old learners in two linguistic contexts (English and Turkish)–there is substantial evidence for the learning of both types of restriction.

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