Input variability facilitates unguided subcategory learning in adults

Sunniva Sørhus Eidsvåg, Margit Austad, Elena Plante, Arve E. Asbjørnsen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Purpose: This experiment investigated whether input variability would affect initial learning of noun gender subcategories in an unfamiliar, natural language (Russian), as it is known to assist learning of other grammatical forms. Method: Forty adults (20 men, 20 women) were familiarized with examples of masculine and feminine Russian words. Half of the participants were familiarized with 32 different root words in a high-variability condition. The other half were familiarized with 16 different root words, each repeated twice for a total of 32 presentations in a high-repetition condition. Participants were tested on untrained members of the category to assess generalization. Familiarization and testing was completed 2 additional times. Results: Only participants in the high-variability group showed evidence of learning after an initial period of familiarization. Participants in the high-repetition group were able to learn after additional input. Both groups benefited when words included 2 cues to gender compared to a single cue. Conclusions: The results demonstrate that the degree of input variability can influence learners’ ability to generalize a grammatical subcategory (noun gender) from a natural language. In addition, the presence of multiple cues to linguistic subcategory facilitated learning independent of variability condition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)826-839
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Speech and Hearing


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