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language 2.4.docx

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Western University
Psychology 2134A/B
Marc Joanisse

LECTURE 2.4 – Learning and Processing the Past Tense  There is a relatively fixed pattern with which children acquire past tense morphemes... o “-ing,” plural “s,” possessive “s,” third person “s,” irregular past tense, regular past tense.  The question is do children learn these rules, or are they memorizing?  Berko (1958) answered this question with his classic Wug Test. He invented a fictitious creature called a Wug. He displayed one on paper with text that said “this is a wug.” Then in another picture he had two of them with text that said “add another, now there are two ___.”  Children filled in the missing word as “wugs” which conclusively proves that children do learn rules.  Children as young as 3 exhibit this trait.  What about irregular verbs? English has about 180 irregular verbs whose past tense form is completely arbitrary. Therefore children must memorize these.  Kids effectively learn irregular verbs before regular ones however there is a period of relapse when all of a sudden their performance in using irregulars declines and they slowly work their way back up. This is an example of a U-Shaped Learning Curve.  Steve Pinker explains this u-shaped learning; he contends that children first learn irregulars, but when they discover the “-ed” rule they over-generalize it to irregular verbs. They then have to undergo the process of relearning irregular verbs.  Pinker argues for something called the dual route theory.  Dual Route Theory... o This is a modular theory. o It argues that the “-ed” rule is encoded through a separate route than the regulars. o Claims that the Rule Route is where we produce the regular past tense verbs and the Irregular Route leads to LTM where we store the irregulars.  Now we will consider some interesting observations and see if we can later apply the Dual Route Theory to them.  It seems that the regular ending is treated as the default for both new words (i.e. blogged, unfriended, etc.) and non-sense words in studies (i.e. taffed, blorped, leffed, etc.).  It
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