Evidence for Implicit Learning in Syntactic Comprehension


Correspondence should be sent to Alex Brabham Fine, Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, University of Rochester, Meliora Hall, Box 270268, Rochester, NY 14627-0268. E-mail: afine@bcs.rochester.edu


This study provides evidence for implicit learning in syntactic comprehension. By reanalyzing data from a syntactic priming experiment (Thothathiri & Snedeker, 2008), we find that the error signal associated with a syntactic prime influences comprehenders' subsequent syntactic expectations. This follows directly from error-based implicit learning accounts of syntactic priming, but it is unexpected under accounts that consider syntactic priming a consequence of temporary increases in base-level activation. More generally, the results raise questions about the principles underlying the maintenance of implicit statistical knowledge relevant to language processing, and about possible functional motivations for syntactic priming.