Children with specific language impairment show rapid, implicit learning of stress assignment rules

Elena Plante, Megha Bahl, Rebecca Vance, Lou Ann Gerken

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


An implicit learning paradigm was used to assess children's sensitivity to syllable stress information in an artificial language. Study 1 demonstrated that preschool children, with and without specific language impairment (SLI), can generalize patterns of stress heard during a brief period of familiarization, and can also abstract underlying ordered rules by which stress patterns were assigned to syllables. In Study 2, the salience of stressed elements was acoustically enhanced. Counter to expectations, there was no evidence of learning with this manipulation for either the typically developing children or children with SLI. The results suggest that children with SLI and their typically developing peers are sensitive to syllable stress cues to language structure. However, attempts to draw attention to these patterns by making them more salient may prompt children to use alternate learning strategies that do not lead to an implicit understanding of how stress contributes to the structure of language.Learning outcomes: The reader will be able to understand: (1) that children with SLI can learn and generalize the rules for assigning word-level stress patterns within minutes of hearing examples, but (2) strategies to enhance learning may actually have the opposite effect for these children.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)397-406
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Communication Disorders
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Speech and Hearing
  • LPN and LVN


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