The influence of bilingualism on statistical word learning

Timothy J. Poepsel, Daniel J. Weiss

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Statistical learning is a fundamental component of language acquisition, yet to date, relatively few studies have examined whether these abilities differ in bilinguals. In the present study, we examine this issue by comparing English monolinguals with Chinese-English and English-Spanish bilinguals in a cross-situational statistical learning (CSSL) task. In Experiment 1, we assessed the ability of both monolinguals and bilinguals on a basic CSSL task that contained only one-to-one mappings. In Experiment 2, learners were asked to form both one-to-one and two-to-one mappings, and were tested at three points during familiarization. Overall, monolinguals and bilinguals did not differ in their learning of one-to-one mappings. However, bilinguals more quickly acquired two-to-one mappings, while also exhibiting greater proficiency than monolinguals. We conclude that the fundamental SL mechanism may not be affected by language experience, in accord with previous studies. However, when the input contains greater variability, bilinguals may be more prone to detecting the presence of multiple structures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9-19
Number of pages11
StatePublished - Jul 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

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


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