Applied Psycholinguistics


Down the Garden Path: Inducing and correcting overgeneralization errors in the foreign language classroom

Michael Tomaselloa1 c1 and Carol Herrona1

a1 Emory University


In this study we compared two methods for teaching grammatical exceptions in the foreign language classroom. Thirty-nine students in two sections of an introductory college French course served as subjects. Eight target structures, exemplifying “exceptions to a rule,” were randomly assigned to one of two teaching conditions for a section taught in the spring; each structure was assigned to the opposite teaching condition for a section taught the following fall. In one condition we simply taught the students the exception as an exception. In the other – what we called the Garden Path condition – we presented canonical exemplars encouraging students to induce the rule; we then asked them to generate the form (which we knew to be an exception) and then corrected their resulting overgeneralization error. Analysis of subsequent formal testing showed that students learned the exception better in the Garden Path condition and that this advantage persisted throughout the semesterlong course. We hypothesized that this technique helped students to focus attention both on the rule and on the features of the particular structure that marked it as an exception.


c1 Michael Tomasello, Department of Psychology, Emory University, Atlanta, GA 30322