Poster E76, Monday, March 27, 2:30 – 4:30 pm, Pacific Concourse
Investigating with Finger Tracking the Acquisition of Semantic and Syntactic Symbols in an Artificial Mini-language
Fosca Al Roumi1, Dror Dotan1,2, Stanislas Dehaene1,3; 1Cognitive Neuroimaging Unit, CEA DSV/I2BM, INSERM, Université Paris-Sud, Université Paris-Saclay, NeuroSpin center, 91191 Gif/Yvette, France, 2Language and Brain Lab, School of Education and Sagol School of Neuroscience, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel, 3College de France, 11 Place Marcelin Berthelot, 75005 Paris, France
Although non-human primates are able to learn symbols that have a semantic meaning, they do not have access to complex language. Moreover, the manner in which humans learn the abstract rules needed to acquire syntax is not yet clear. To understand if different learning mechanisms differentiate human linguistic capacities from those of monkeys, we developed a mini-language learning application on an iPad tablet. Novel to our paradigm was the addition of a syntactic operator, which is a crucial aspect of human generative language. 27 participants, with an age range from 18 to 35 completed the experiment over two consecutive days. By continuously tracking finger movement, we revealed the successive cognitive states associated to the sequential processing of the semantic and syntactic elements of the mini-language in real-time. All participants were able to understand the semantic component of our mini-language. They accumulated sequentially the evidence associated to each shape to make the decision that was the most likely to be rewarded. However, only half of them learned the rule underlying the processing of the syntactic operator. Our results are an encouraging first step in elucidating the way in which adult humans acquire syntax. However, this division into sub-groups evokes additional interesting questions, the answers to which will add to our understanding of how humans and non-human primates differentiate in their apprehension of sequences.
Topic Area: LANGUAGE: Syntax