The acquisition of morpho-phonological alternations in Dutch and German (2009-2012)

Researcher on the project:

Helen Buckler

Helen Buckler

Supervisors: Paula Fikkert and Anne Cutler

Short project description:
This is a proposal for a 3-year PhD project into the acquisition of morphologically conditioned stem alternations in Dutch and German as part of the International Max Planck Research School for Language Sciences. The focus of the study is alternations between singular and plural forms in the noun paradigm of these two languages. Research will be carried out at the Baby Research Center of the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Nijmegen and the Potsdamer BabyLab under Prof. Dr. Barbara Höhle.

The focus of this project is the mental representation of alternating forms in the developing lexicon, and aims to address the following key questions:

  • How are morphologically related words represented in the child's mental lexicon?
  • Does the acquisition of morphophonological alternations (such as be[t]~be[d]en 'bed'~'beds') lead to changes in the phonological representations of morphologically simplex words?
  • Are children more or less sensitive to mispronunciations of forms that never figure in alternations (pe[t]~pe[t]en 'cap'~'caps') than in those that show alternation in the paradigm (be[t]~be[d]en 'bed'~'beds')? What is the role of phonological markedness in accounting for alternations?
  • Do forms that appear in alternations lead to delays in word recognition or word production?
  • Does production of alternation enhance comprehension of alternations?
  • Are certain types of morphophonological alternations easier to acquire than others?
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