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Slide Slam E9

Statistical learning contributes to sentence comprehension in a foreign language learned through a non-immersive environment

Slide Slam Session E, Tuesday, October 5, 2021, 5:30 - 7:30 pm PDT Log In to set Timezone

Yi-Syuan Huang1,, Andhika Renaldi2,, Denise Hsien Wu1; 1National Central University, 2Taiwan International Graduate Program in Interdisciplinary Neuroscience, National Central University and Academia Sinica

Recent literature has indicated that statistical learning (SL) contributes to language processing and acquisition regardless the population is infants or adults. Our previous research also demonstrated the association between SL and Chinese character recognition in native speakers and foreign learners through behavioral and neuroimaging findings. However, further evidence is needed to determine the relationship between SL and other aspects of language processing and acquisition. To address this issue, we examined whether SL was correlated with the semantic and syntactic processing of sentences in a foreign language. Specifically, 49 Taiwanese college students with relatively high proficiency in English were presented with English sentences when their neurophysiological responses to the sentences were simultaneously recorded. After excluding participants with low accuracy in the acceptability judgment task or with excessive artifacts in the neurophysiological signals, 34 participants’ data were analyzed further. Event-related potentials (ERPs) elicited by semantically and syntactically anomalous words, compared to those elicited by control words, in the sentences revealed robust N400 and P600 effects, respectively. These results were consistent with the findings from native speakers, despite the fact that our participants learned English in a non-immersive environment with only several hours of formal classes a week. Critically, the magnitude of the N400 effect was correlated with the ability of SL (measured by a conventional triplet segmentation task) significantly after individual differences in English proficiency, IQ, and working memory were controlled by taking the scores in the TOEIC, Block Design, and Corsi Block tasks into account. On the other hand, the P600 effect was not correlated with the ability of SL. The present results provided supporting evidence for the relationship between the domain-general pattern learning mechanism underlying SL and the domain-specific semantic processing mechanism underlying foreign language comprehension. More research would help clarify whether SL contributes to the acquisition of semantic and syntactic regularities in a foreign language.

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