The opt out paradigm
First steps towards a new experimental method that measures meta-linguistic awareness
A common assumption is that children learn a language implicitly and without conscious awareness of form and grammar, but this assumption has virtually never been tested experimentally. We propose a novel experimental method to examine if children’s ability to acquire linguistic regularities relates to awareness of these regularities. Traditional methods investigating awareness often rely on learners’ abilities to verbalize their awareness. For young children, such methods are not adequate because they often cannot reflect explicitly on their acquired knowledge, although they might be aware of it in a way they cannot verbalize. To test this, we adapted a method that is used to investigate awareness in animals, because it does not rely on verbalization for demonstrating awareness. Pilot results with 26 adults and 48 kindergartners show some important procedural prerequisites are met. In future research, this procedure could be used to investigate the development of meta-linguistic awareness in children.
Keywords: meta-linguistic awareness, opt out paradigm, implicit learning, measuring awareness
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