Neural Underpinnings of Phonotactic Rule Learning

Enes Avcu, Ryan Rhodes, Arild Hestvik


This study used behavioral measures and ERP difference waves to measure the underlying brain processes during the categorization of grammatical vs ungrammatical stimuli according to a lab learned phonotactic rule. The results show that participants learned the simple rule at the behavioral level (as measured with d-prime, a sensitivity measure to rule violations). This rule learning is also reflected in the brain response to violations of the rule, which is indexed by the P3 rare-minus-frequent difference waveform. The neural results indicate that this learning took the form of a neural commitment. Participants learned the rule and used it to make active predictions, categorizing words as ungrammatical at the exact point of violation. This ability must be instantiated at the neural level, meaning rapid neural tuning has occurred in this lab setting.


Phonotactics; Learnability; EEG; Neural Commitment

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Copyright (c) 2019 Enes Avcu, Ryan Rhodes, Arild Hestvik