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Phonotactics and morphophonology in early child language: Evidence from Dutch

  • TANIA S. ZAMUNER (a1), ANNEMARIE KERKHOFF (a2) and PAULA FIKKERT (a3)

Abstract

This research investigates children's knowledge of how surface pronunciations of lexical items vary according to their phonological and morphological context. Dutch-learning children aged 2.5 and 3.5 years were tested on voicing neutralization and morphophonological alternations. For instance, voicing does not alternate between the pair [pɛt]~[pɛtən] (cap~caps) but does in [bɛt]~[bɛdən] (bed~beds). Data from the first experiment showed that children at a younger age were less accurate at imitating words with /d/ than /t/, regardless of morphological context. In a second study, children between 2 and 4 years were asked to produce singulars from novel plurals (e.g., [kɛtən]~[kɛt] and [kɛdən]~[kɛt]). Results indicated that children's performance was better in contexts that did not require surface variation. Dutch-learning children are not able to robustly generalize their knowledge of phonotactics and morphophonological alternations. Rather, it appears that their knowledge is more concrete, in line with recent usage-based theories of acquisition.

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Corresponding author

ADDRESS FOR CORRESPONDENCE Tania S. Zamuner, Department of Linguistics, Arts Hall, Room 401, University of Ottawa, 70 Laurier Avenue East, Ottawa, ON K1N 6N5, Canada. E-mail: tzamuner@uottawa.ca

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