Connectionism

The connectionist model of language learning argues that learners gradually build up their interlanguage through exposure to linguistic features. Repeated exposure to language enables the learner to notice patterns in the input data. These patterns, or ‘regularities’ are stored as connections between lexical items.

For example, repeated exposure to language will eventually lead the learner to notice the ‘-ed’ ending on many past tense verbs (worked, played, watched, etc). These words are essentially connected to each other via the ‘ed’ pathway. Similarly, if a learner notices that the past tense of ‘sing’ is ‘sang’, that ‘drink’ is ‘drank’ and that ‘sink’ is ‘sank’, if the pattern is noticed then the learner can deduce that the past tense of ‘spring’ is ‘sprang’.

The presence of one feature activates another because of their connection. For example, in ‘he says’, the pronoun may activate the ending of ‘says’.

In other words, there may be a ‘tipping point’ in language learning? After enough exposure, lots of language items start falling into place?

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