Exemplar-based learning probably requires learning abstractions

a commentary on Ambridge (2020)

Katherine Demuth*, Mark Johnson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Citations (Scopus)


Exemplar-based learning requires (i) a segmentation procedure for identifying the units of past experiences that a present experience can be compared to, and (ii) a similarity function for comparing these past experiences to the present experience. This article argues that for a learner to learn a language these two mechanisms will require abstractions such as linguistic features. Moreover, because the segmentation procedure will vary depending on the language, a radical exemplar theory is likely to require linguistic abstractions for learning.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages3
JournalFirst Language
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 7 Feb 2020



  • grammar
  • learnability
  • learning mechanisms
  • phonotactics
  • word segmenttion
  • word segmentation

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