In literates, reading is a fundamental channel for acquiring new vocabulary both in the mother tongue and in foreign languages. By using an artificial language learning task, we examined the acquisition of novel written words and their embedded regularities (an orthographic surface feature and a syllabic feature) in three groups of university students with different exposures (Group 1 saw 2 words once, Group 2 saw 20 words once, Group 3 saw 20 words three times). Recognition memory results for Groups 2 and 3 indicated that adults can learn novel written words even with just a single exposure, albeit repeated exposure improved target detection. A generalization task revealed that even the minimal exposure in Group 1 was enough for acquisition of the two embedded regularities. More exemplars and repeated exposure provided more robust effects for the syllable regularity. Finally, post-test interview showed that repeated exposure was needed to become aware of the regularities. The present results show that adults learn novel written words and their inherent regularities in a fast and effective fashion.
- Artificial grammar learning
- Language learning