Rebecca Gomez, University of Arizona
Why is language learning so slow if infants are such rapid learners?
Human infants show a striking capacity for extracting regularities in language. This rapid learning ability, is thought to bootstrap acquisition of language. Critically, studies of learning test infants in the minutes following familiarization, but long-term memory formation unfolds over hours and days, with little work investigating retention of new learning. This creates a critical gap in the literature given how little we know about how single or multiple learning experiences translate into permanent knowledge. Furthermore, different memory systems with vastly different encoding and retention profiles emerge at different points in development, with the underlying memory system dictating the fidelity of the memory trace hours later. I describe the scant literature on retention of learning, the learning and retention properties of memory systems as they apply to language learning, and the development of these memory systems. I propose that different memory systems support retention of language learning in infants and adults, suggesting at least one contribution to the slow pace of natural language acquisition in infancy. I discuss the implications of this position for child and adult language acquisition.
DeLTA Center Roundtable - Friday in S204 Lindquist Center