A Dense Corpus Study of Past Tense and Plural Overregularization in English In the "blocking-and-retrieval-failure" account of overregularization (OR; G. F. Marcus, 1995; G. F. Marcus et al., 1992), the claim that a symbolic rule generates regular inflection is founded on pervasively low past tense OR rates and the lack of a substantive difference between past tense and plural OR rates. Evidence ... Research Article
Research Article  |   December 01, 2004
A Dense Corpus Study of Past Tense and Plural Overregularization in English
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Robert J. C. Maslen
    University of Manchester, United Kingdom
  • Anna L. Theakston
    University of Manchester, United Kingdom
  • Elena V. M. Lieven
    Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany
  • Michael Tomasello
    Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany
  • Corresponding author: e-mail: robert.maslen@stud.man.ac.uk
  • Contact author: Robert Maslen, Max Planck Child Study Centre, Department of Psychology, University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9PL, United Kingdom.
    Contact author: Robert Maslen, Max Planck Child Study Centre, Department of Psychology, University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9PL, United Kingdom.×
Article Information
Development / Cultural & Linguistic Diversity / Attention, Memory & Executive Functions / Speech, Voice & Prosody / Language / Research Articles
Research Article   |   December 01, 2004
A Dense Corpus Study of Past Tense and Plural Overregularization in English
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, December 2004, Vol. 47, 1319-1333. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2004/099)
History: Received January 31, 2004 , Accepted March 30, 2004
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, December 2004, Vol. 47, 1319-1333. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2004/099)
History: Received January 31, 2004; Accepted March 30, 2004
Web of Science® Times Cited: 33

In the "blocking-and-retrieval-failure" account of overregularization (OR; G. F. Marcus, 1995; G. F. Marcus et al., 1992), the claim that a symbolic rule generates regular inflection is founded on pervasively low past tense OR rates and the lack of a substantive difference between past tense and plural OR rates. Evidence of extended periods of OR in the face of substantial correct input (M. Maratsos, 2000) and of an initial period in which nouns are more likely to be overregularized than verbs (V. A. Marchman, K. Plunkett, & J. Goodman, 1997) casts doubt on the blocking account and suggests instead an interplay between type and token frequency effects that is more consistent with usage-based approaches (e.g., J. Bybee, 1995; K. Köpcke, 1998; K. Plunkett & V. Marchman, 1993). However, previous naturalistic studies have been limited by data that account for only 1–2% of child speech. The current study reports analyses of verb and noun ORs in a dense naturalistic corpus (1 child, 2;00.12–3;11.06 [years;months.days]) that captures 8–10% of child speech and input. The data show (a) a marked difference in verb and noun OR rates; (b) evidence of a relationship between relative regular/irregular type frequencies and the onset and rate of past tense and plural ORs; (c) substantial OR periods for some verbs and nouns despite hundreds of correct tokens in child speech and input; and (d) a strong negative correlation between input token frequencies and OR rates for verbs and nouns. The implications of these findings for blocking and other accounts of OR are discussed.

Acknowledgment
We would like to thank the mother and child who made this study possible.
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