Inflection from form versus meaning: Developmental and computational evidence


Inflectional morphology has proven a test case for evaluating theoretical approaches to language processing. The bulk of empirical data has been acquired using the inflection from stem task, which approximates more naturalistic speech production only if mandatory stem retrieval is assumed. Yet work with adults reveals quite different results when inflection proceeds instead from meaning. Connectionist computational models of inflection have simulated these task differences, but the extent to which they accurately reflect development remains unknown. For the first time, we consider the impact of task type upon inflectional development of 908 children aged between 2 and 4 years. We then present a revised version of a connectionist model of inflection, which has been trained in a manner consistent with child directed speech in order to capture the children’s performance. Taken together, this work demonstrates the progression of the field to more ecologically and developmentally valid approaches to inflection.

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