Analogical effects on past-tense formation in L1 and L2 learners of Dutch

TitleAnalogical effects on past-tense formation in L1 and L2 learners of Dutch
Publication TypePresentation
Year of Publication2004
Conference NameWorkshop on First and Second Language Acquisition
AuthorsMak, Pim, and Mirjam Ernestus
PublisherNederlandse Vereniging voor Fonetische Wetenschappen
Conference LocationNijmegen, The Netherlands

There is a simple deterministic rule for past-tense formation in Dutch. If the verbal stem in the infinitive ends in an unvoiced obstruent, the simple past suffix is -te. In all other cases, it is -de. Ernestus & Baayen (2003,2004), however, showed that adult speakers of Dutch do not simply follow this rule. They tend to construct past tense forms by analogy with phonologically similar words in the lexicon. When analogy supports the suffix prescribed by the rule (congruent verbs), adults make less mistakes in the choice of the suffix then when analogy and the rule are in conflict (incongruent verbs). In this talk, we will present a study on the production of past-tense forms by primary school children, both L1 and L2 learners. If the difference between the congruent and incongruent verbs (the congruency effect) indeed depends on patterns of analogy in the lexicon, it should become greater when a child’s vocabulary becomes larger. Dutch primary school children at the end of grades 5 to 8 (after 3 to 6 years of reading) were asked to construct the past-tense forms of congruent and incongruent verbs. The experiment showed that the congruency effect is already present in grade 5. Also, the effect becomes larger over the years. Children whose native language is not Dutch show a smaller congruency effect, which forms additional support that the congruency effect depends on vocabulary size.