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Testing an input-based account of children's errors with inflectional morphology: an elicited production study of Japanese

  • Tomoko TATSUMI (a1), Ben AMBRIDGE (a1) and Julian M. PINE (a1)

This study tested the claim of input-based accounts of language acquisition that children's inflectional errors reflect competition between different forms of the same verb in memory. In order to distinguish this claim from the claim that inflectional errors reflect the use of a morphosyntactic default, we focused on the Japanese verb system, which shows substantial by-verb variation in the frequency distribution of past and nonpast forms. 22 children aged 3;2–5;8 (Study 1) and 26 children aged 2;7–4;11 (Study 2) completed elicited production studies designed to elicit past and nonpast forms of 20 verbs (past-biased and nonpast-biased). Children made errors in both directions, using past forms in nonpast contexts, and vice versa, with the likelihood of each determined by the frequency bias of the two forms in the input language, even after controlling for telicity. This bi-directional pattern provides particularly direct evidence for the role of frequency-sensitive competition between stored forms.

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*Corresponding author: School of Psychology, University of Liverpool, Eleanor Rathbone Building, Bedford St South, L69 7ZA. E-mail:
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