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Polish children's productivity with case marking: the role of regularity, type frequency, and phonological diversity


57 Polish-speaking children aged from 2;4, to 4;8 and 16 adult controls participated in a nonce-word inflection experiment testing their ability to use the genitive, dative and accusative inflections productively. Results show that this ability develops early: the majority of two-year-olds were already productive with all inflections apart from dative neuter; and the overall performance of the four-year-olds was very similar to that of adults. All age groups were more productive with inflections that apply to large and/or phonologically diverse classes, although class size and token frequency appeared to be more important for younger children (two- and three-year-olds) and phonological diversity for older children and adults. Regularity, on the other hand, was a very poor predictor of productivity. The results support usage-based models of language acquisition and are problematic for the dual mechanism model.

Corresponding author
Department of English Language and Linguistics, University of Sheffield, Sheffield S10 2TN, UK. e-mail:
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We would like to thank Ewa Borek, Mariola Busławska, Małgorzata Ciołek, Ewa Czerlińska, Celina Kośmider, Małgorzata Michalak, and Bożena Pławska for their help in collecting the data, Barbara Dąbrowska for organizational support throughout the duration of the project, and Grzegorz Krajewski for his assistance with coding the corpus data. Very special and warm thanks go to the children from Żłobek nr 1 and Przedszkole nr 81 in Gdańsk who participated in the experiment. This study was supported by British Academy grant RB 100556 awarded to the first author.
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Journal of Child Language
  • ISSN: 0305-0009
  • EISSN: 1469-7602
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-child-language
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