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How “small” is “starting small” for learning hierarchical centre-embedded structures?

Lai, J., & Poletiek, F. H. (2013). How “small” is “starting small” for learning hierarchical centre-embedded structures? Journal of Cognitive Psychology, 25, 423-435. doi:10.1080/20445911.2013.779247.
Hierarchical centre-embedded structures pose a large difficulty for language learners due to their complexity. A recent artificial grammar learning study (Lai & Poletiek, 2011) demonstrated a starting-small (SS) effect, i.e., staged-input and sufficient exposure to 0-level-of-embedding exemplars were the critical conditions in learning AnBn structures. The current study aims to test: (1) a more sophisticated type of SS (a gradually rather than discretely growing input), and (2) the frequency distribution of the input. The results indicate that SS optimally works under other conditional cues, such as a skewed frequency distribution with simple stimuli being more numerous than complex ones.
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