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Publication - Dr Ryan Blything

    Children's Acquisition of the English Past-Tense

    Evidence for a Single-Route Account From Novel Verb Production Data


    Blything, RP, Ambridge, B & Lieven, EV, 2018, ‘Children's Acquisition of the English Past-Tense: Evidence for a Single-Route Account From Novel Verb Production Data’. Cognitive Science, vol 42., pp. 621-639


    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.

    Full details in the University publications repository