Tiffany Boersma MA, ACLC PhD researcher department of Literature and Linguistics

Variability in the acquisition of allomorphs. The Dutch diminutive and past tense

29Sept2017 15:15 - 16:30


Tiffany Boersma is the guest speaker at this ACLC seminar. Title and abstract are now available.


What factors influence the acquisition of allomorphs? In this presentation findings of three studies in which the development of the Dutch past tense and diminutive allomorphs have been investigated are presented. Adults and typically developing children (5;0 – 10;0) were tested on a production and judgement task.
Allomorphs, phonological variant forms of morphemes, stem from the phonological characteristics of the noun or verb. Earlier studies have found variabilities in the acquisition of allomorphs and various explanations have been given for this. However, a multifactorial understanding that brings together and clarifies the relationships between these explanations is still missing. In this presentation previous results are replicated and the different factors that seem to be involved in the acquisition of allomorphs are tied together. By doing so, a more univocal understanding of why some allomorphs take longer to acquire than others can be obtained.
The results indicate that type frequency and vocabulary size play a role in the sense that children need input to be able to abstract the phonological characteristics of the stem. However, children need to be able to deal with these phonological characteristics before they can actually be aware of and generalize over different phonological patterns. Children’s phonological processing skills and the complexity of the phonological stem characteristics appear therefore to be more direct causes of the protracted acquisition of some allomorphs. The better children’s phonological processing skills and the less complex the phonological characteristics, the better children will be able to abstract the phonological patterns and choose the appropriate allomorph.


Published by  ACLC