Distributional effects and individual differences in L2 morphology learning

Patricia J. Brooks, Nicole Kwoka, Vera Kempe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)
215 Downloads (Pure)


Second language (L2) learning outcomes may depend on the structure of the input and learners’ cognitive abilities. This study tested whether less predictable input might facilitate learning and generalization of L2 morphology while evaluating contributions of statistical learning ability, nonverbal intelligence, phonological short-term memory, and verbal working memory. Over three sessions, 54 adults were exposed to a Russian case-marking paradigm with a balanced or skewed item distribution in the input. Whereas statistical learning ability and nonverbal intelligence predicted learning of trained items, only nonverbal intelligence also predicted generalization of case-marking inflections to new vocabulary. Neither measure of temporary storage capacity predicted learning. Balanced, less predictable input was associated with higher accuracy in generalization but only in the initial test session. These results suggest that individual differences in pattern extraction play a more sustained role in L2 acquisition than instructional manipulations that vary the predictability of lexical items in the input.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)171-207
Number of pages37
JournalLanguage Learning
Issue number1
Early online date12 Sep 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2017


  • Miniature natural language learning
  • Inflectional morphology
  • Statistical learning
  • Nonverbal intelligence
  • Entropy
  • Second language learning


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