Sign learning and its relationship to word learning in hearing adults
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In this study, structural equation modeling was used to 1) extend individual differences research on second language word learning to sign learning in hearing non-signers and 2) to model the relationship between word and sign learning. Two-hundred thirty-six participants completed 25 tasks assessing word learning, sign learning, language modality specific phonological short-term memory, fluid intelligence, crystallized intelligence, and working memory capacity. The results of this study indicated that fluid intelligence was predictive of both word and sign learning, however, after accounting for other variables, phonological short-term memory was only predictive of lexical learning within modality (e.g., short-term memory for signs predicted sign learning but not word learning). A strong correlation was also observed between the sign and word learning factors. Exploratory analyses revealed that all tasks loaded onto a general lexical learning factor but sign learning tasks additionally loaded onto a specific factor. As such, this study provides insight into the cognitive components that are common to lexical learning regardless of language modality and those that are unique to either signed or spoken languages.