Suffix predictability and stem transparency in the acquisition of German noun plurals*

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This study examines the impact of suffix and stem properties on children’s acquisition of German noun plural morphology. As to suffix selection, we distinguish three levels of predictability: highly predictable, partially predictable and exceptional, based on sonority/gender distributions in actual language use. As to stem change, we distinguish three levels of transparency: no change, slight change (revoicing) and strong change (Umlaut). The relevance of suffix predictability and stem transparency is tested in 140 German-speaking children from the age of three to nine years, by using a plural elicitation task. Results show that both variables have an impact on children’s correct production of plural forms; there was no significant interaction between the two variables in the acquisition process. The results are discussed with regard to single- and dual-route models of morphology and acquisition.


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