Explicit versus implicit instruction: Which is preferable for learning an artificial morphological rule in children?

Sara Ferman, Avi Karni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: It is not clear which method is preferable in the instruction of grammar in children: explicitly, whereby information concerning the nature of the rule to be learned is provided, or implicitly, whereby this information is not provided. In a recent study wherein an artificial morphophonological rule (AMR) was learned without explicit explanation (implicit instruction), unlike 12-year-olds and young adults, 8-year-olds failed to explicitly discover the nature of the rule and to generalize it to novel items. Given that implicit learning mechanisms in children are more mature than explicit ones, here we investigated whether providing explicit explanation can help 8-year-olds learn the AMR. Method: The AMR consisted of phonological transformations of verbs expressing a semantic distinction: whether the preceding noun was animate or inanimate. Results: The explicit explanation exerted an initial positive effect on learning to apply the AMR to repeated items. Importantly, most explicitly instructed learners were able to generalize the AMR to new items correctly, however, with a small decrease in speed. Discussion: Despite immature explicit learning mechanisms, explicit explanation followed by practice can trigger the development of explicit knowledge of a complex language rule in children. This method of instruction enabled rule generalization and enhanced processes of proceduralization.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)77-87
Number of pages11
JournalFolia Phoniatrica et Logopaedica
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - 2014

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 S. Karger AG, Basel.


  • Artificial morphological rule
  • Children
  • Generalization
  • Implicit versus explicit instruction
  • Language learning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Speech and Hearing
  • LPN and LVN


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