Analogical Processes in Language Learning


Language acquisition is a complex task, encompassing (at least) perception and categorization of phonemes, segmentation of speech, learning word meanings, and extracting morphological and syntactic regularities. The daunting nature of this task has led many to assume that a specialized module is required for language acquisition. Yet there is increasing evidence that general learning processes play a major role (e.g., Marcus et al, 1999; Saffran, Aslin & Newport, 1996). In this symposium we present the case that analogical comparison processes play an important role in language learning. We bring together empirical work addressing language acquisition in young children and second language learners, across three different levels of linguistic structure: phonology, lexical semantics, and syntax. Taken together, these studies suggest that analogical processes are important at every level of language learning.

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