The effects of individual differences in statistical learning on the acquisition of Chinese character recognition and sentence comprehension(2/3)

Project Details


There are hierarchy and systematic regularities embedded in Chinese orthography and sentence structure. Native speakers and readers of Chinese presumably rely on their sensitivity to probabilistic information to develop the knowledge of the regularities “hidden” in linguistic input after extensive exposure to the countless exemplars during their life spans. Through the approach that investigates the correlation between individual differences in domain-general (non-linguistic) and domain-specific (linguistic) abilities, the present proposal aims to investigate whether the fundamental cognitive ability of statistical learning (SL) would help adult learners of Chinese extract the regularities in this foreign language and to achieve high proficiency, reflected in both behavioral and neuronal indices, as native speakers.Based on previous literature and our own research on Chinese character recognition and sentence comprehension in native readers and speakers, we propose to conduct eight experiments in a period of three years with the following specific aims: First, we investigate whether individual differences in SL correlates with emergence of the sensitivity to the regularities embedded in Chinese orthography. Specifically, we prepare spatial SL tests (Experiment 1), examine adult Chinese learners in these tests (Experiment 2), and measure their Chinese proficiency in character recognition via behavioral and fMRI responses (Experiment 3), as well as via behavioral and MEG responses (Experiment 4), that reflect the effects of phonetic radical consistency in the tasks of lexical decision and pseudo-character decision. Second, we investigate whether individual differences in SL correlates with emergence of the sensitivity to the temporal dependencies among words in Chinese sentences. Specifically, we prepare sequential SL tests (Experiment 5), examine native speakers and adult learners of Chinese in these tests (Experiment 5 & 7), and measure their Chinese proficiency in sentence comprehension via MEG responses to semantic (negative polarity item) and syntactic (aspect) agreement violations (Experiment 6 & 8).In addition to profiling whether adult learners of Chinese exhibit similar or distinct behaviors and brain activations in the tasks of character recognition and sentence comprehension as native Chinese participants, the results of the proposed project elucidate the relationships between individual differences in SL abilities and in the acquisition of Chinese proficiency. Such findings not only provide empirical evidence for the critical role of SL in learning a foreign language, they also point to potential directions for the optimal strategies to teach and to master a foreign language. Moreover, when the results from the present project are considered together with the results from the Main Project and other Sub-Projects, we are able to explore the relationships among multiple cognitive factors and the acquisition of foreign language proficiency in a comprehensive fashion, which would help us build an adequate theory for foreign language learning and processing.
Effective start/end date1/01/1731/12/17

UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This project contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 4 - Quality Education
  • SDG 12 - Responsible Consumption and Production
  • SDG 17 - Partnerships for the Goals


Explore the research topics touched on by this project. These labels are generated based on the underlying awards/grants. Together they form a unique fingerprint.