Generation of Complex Verbal Morphology in First and Second Language Acquisition: Evidence from Russian
Keywords:Russian verbal morphology, mental lexicon, processing, language acquisition
AbstractThis study explores the structure of the mental lexicon and the processing of Russian verbal morphology by two groups of speakers, adult American learners of Russian and Russian children aged 4-6, and reports the results of two matching experiments conducted at the University of Maryland, USA and St. Petersburg State University, Russia. The theoretical framework for this study comes from research on the structure of the mental lexicon and modularity in morphological processing. So far, there are very few studies investigating the processing of complex verbal morphology, with most of the work done on Icelandic, Norwegian, Italian, and Russian. The current views are shaped predominantly by research on English regular and irregular past-tense inflection, which has been conducted within two competing approaches. This study investigates the processing of verbal morphology in Russian, a language with numerous verb classes differing in size and the number and complexity of conjugation rules. It assumes that instead of a sharp opposition of regular and irregular verb processing, a gradual parameter of regularity may be more appropriate for Russian. Therefore, the issue of symbolic rule application versus associative patterning can take on a new meaning for Russian, possibly, with the distinction between default and non-default processing replacing the regular-irregular distinction.
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