Lexical Semantics and Irregular Inflection

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Lexical Semantics and Irregular Inflection

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Title: Lexical Semantics and Irregular Inflection
Author: Pinker, Steven; Huang, Yi Ting

Note: Order does not necessarily reflect citation order of authors.

Citation: Huang, Yi Tang, and Steven Pinker. 2010. Lexical semantics and irregular inflection. Language and Cognitive Processes 25(10): 1411-1461.
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Abstract: Whether a word has an irregular inflection does not depend on its sound alone: compare lie-lay (recline) and lie-lied (prevaricate). Theories of morphology, particularly connectionist and symbolic models, disagree on which nonphonological factors are responsible. We test four possibilities: (1) lexical effects, in which two lemmas differ in whether they specify an irregular form; (2) semantic effects, in which the semantic features of a word become associated with regular or irregular forms; (3) morphological structure effects, in which a word with a headless structure (e.g., a verb derived from a noun) blocks access to a stored irregular form; and (4) compositionality effects, in which the stored combination of an irregular word's meaning (e.g., the verb's inherent aspect) with the meaning of the inflection (e.g., pastness) doesn't readily transfer to new senses with different combinations of such meanings. In four experiments, speakers were presented with existing and novel verbs and asked to rate their past-tense forms, semantic similarities, grammatical structure, and aspectual similarities. We found: (1) an interaction between semantic and phonological similarity, coinciding with reported strategies of analogising to known verbs and implicating lexical effects; (2) weak and inconsistent effects of semantic similarity; (3) robust effects of morphological structure; and (4) robust effects of aspectual compositionality. Results are consistent with theories of language that invoke lexical entries and morphological structure, and which differentiate the mode of storage of regular and irregular verbs. They also suggest how psycholinguistic processes have shaped vocabulary structure over history.
Published Version: doi:10.1080/01690961003589476
Terms of Use: This article is made available under the terms and conditions applicable to Open Access Policy Articles, as set forth at http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:dash.current.terms-of-use#OAP
Citable link to this page: http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:10021556
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