Applied Psycholinguistics


Variability in the learning of complex morphophonology

Marc Ettlingera1, Ann R. Bradlowa2 and Patrick C. M. Wonga3 c1

a1 Northwestern University and Department of Veterans Affairs

a2 Northwestern University

a3 Chinese University of Hong Kong and Northwestern University


This paper explores how theories on the relationship between language and domain-general cognitive capabilities might account for individual variation in second language learning. We investigated the acquisition of a morphophonological grammar paired with standardized tests of memory function. The language learned had simple and complex morphophonological patterns of word formation, which are hypothesized to correlate with standardized measures of procedural and declarative memory, respectively. The results show a significant amount of variation in learning success is accounted for by these measures of memory in accordance with the hypothesis. These findings help explain why some adults are able to learn a second language more easily than others while also advancing a model of second language learning motivated by linguistic theory.

(Received August 02 2011)

(Accepted May 07 2012)


c1 ADDRESS FOR CORRESPONDENCE Patrick Wong, Roxelyn and Richard Pepper Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, Northwestern University, 2240 Campus Drive, Evanston, IL 60208. E-mail: