Khalkha Mongolian speakers' vowel bias: L1 influences on the acquisition of non-adjacent vocalic dependencies

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7 Scopus citations


Native language (L1) phonology has been shown to play an important role in influencing humans' perception and production of novel speech. Yet research examining the conditions which trigger humans to calculate transitional probability between non-adjacent linguistic elements has not considered the potential influence of L1 phonology. For example, previous artificial grammar learning (AGL) literature has shown that participants acquire certain non-adjacent phonological dependencies only with difficulty. However, this previous research used only speakers of English or French, languages which do not exhibit such dependencies. This paper investigates how L1 phonology influences participants' acquisition of non-adjacent phonological dependencies in an AGL task. Five experiments were conducted with speakers of Khalkha Mongolian, a language which exhibits a non-adjacent dependency, vowel harmony and with speakers of American English, a language which exhibits no such dependencies. Khalkha Mongolian speakers successfully acquired non-adjacent vocalic dependencies while American English speakers failed to do so under identical statistical conditions. Besides providing further evidence that statistical learning is not limited to the acquisition of adjacent dependencies, these findings suggest that L1 phonology plays an important role in biasing speakers' attention towards certain aspects of language.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1033-1047
Number of pages15
JournalLanguage, Cognition and Neuroscience
Issue number9
StatePublished - Oct 21 2015


  • Khalkha Mongolian
  • L1 phonology bias
  • artificial grammar learning
  • non-adjacent phonological dependencies
  • vowel harmony

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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