Children's Acquisition of the English Past-Tense: Evidence for a Single-Route Account From Novel Verb Production Data

Ryan P. Blything*, Ben Ambridge, Elena V.M. Lieven

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)
308 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

This study adjudicates between two opposing accounts of morphological productivity, using English past-tense as its test case. The single-route model (e.g., Bybee & Moder, ) posits that both regular and irregular past-tense forms are generated by analogy across stored exemplars in associative memory. In contrast, the dual-route model (e.g., Prasada & Pinker, ) posits that regular inflection requires use of a formal "add -ed" rule that does not require analogy across regular past-tense forms. Children (aged 3-4; 5-6; 6-7; 9-10) saw animations of an animal performing a novel action described with a novel verb (e.g., gezz; chake). Past-tense forms of novel verbs were elicited by prompting the child to describe what the animal "did yesterday." Collapsing across age group (since no interaction was observed), the likelihood of a verb being produced in regular past-tense form (e.g., gezzed; chaked) was positively associated with the verb's similarity to existing regular verbs, consistent with the single-route model only. Results indicate that children's acquisition of the English past-tense is best explained by a single-route analogical mechanism that does not incorporate a role for formal rules.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)621-639
Number of pages19
JournalCognitive Science
Volume42
Issue number52
Early online date12 Jan 2018
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 31 May 2018

Structured keywords

  • Cognitive Science
  • Developmental

Keywords

  • Analogy
  • Cognitive development
  • First language acquisition
  • Inflectional morphology
  • Past-tense

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