ISCA Tutorial and Research Workshop on Experimental Linguistics (ExLing 2008)

Athens, Greece
August 25-27, 2008

Frequency Effects in Language Acquisition: a Case Study of Plural Forms in Brazilian Portuguese

Thais Cristófaro Silva (1), Christina Abreu Gomes (2)

(1) Department of Linguistics, Federal University of Minas Gerais, Brazil
(2) Department of Linguistics, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

This paper discusses the acquisition of plural forms of words that end in a back glide in Brazilian Portuguese and may take two plural forms: either -s (the regular suffix) or the suffix -is. Fourty children were presented to picture cards containing words ending in a back glide and were asked to identify what they saw. Children’s answers presented the suffix -is for the vast majority of words rather than the regular plural suffix -s. Our results indicate that children abstract schemas rather than acquire default rules. The -is suffix has a very high frequency rate for words that end in a back glide which yields to the establishment of robust schemas. We argue that the plural suffix -is is adopted by children due to frequency effects which foments a very robust schema and enhances productivity.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Silva, Thais Cristófaro / Gomes, Christina Abreu (2008): "Frequency effects in language acquisition: a case study of plural forms in Brazilian Portuguese", In ExLing-2008, 205-208.