Effects of Statistical Learning on the Acquisition of Grammatical Categories through Qur'anic Memorization: A Natural Experiment
Zuhurudeen, Fathima Manaar
Huang, Yi Ting
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This study investigated the effects of ambient exposure to Arabic through Qur'anic memorization versus formal classroom exposure to Arabic on the ability to acquire knowledge of Arabic grammatical categories. To do this, we exposed participants to a 5-minute familiarization language of Arabic phrases. Then, we measured accuracy on a two-alternative forced choice grammatical judgment task, which required participants to identify a grammatical phrase based on rules that followed the statistical properties of items in the familiarization language. We compared results of this task with those of language background surveys, and found that memorizers were more accurate than non-memorizers in distinguishing between novel grammatical phrases and ungrammatical phrases. While classroom experience had no effect on accuracy, naïve listeners also experienced statistical learning. Thus, semantic representations are not required to abstract rules of Arabic grammar. We discuss possible explanations for these findings and implications for language acquisition.