A Connectionist Model of English Past Tense and Plural Morphology

Cognitive Science 23 (4):463-490 (1999)
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The acquisition of English noun and verb morphology is modeled using a single-system connectionist network. The network is trained to produce the plurals and past tense forms of a large corpus of monosyllabic English nouns and verbs. The developmental trajectory of network performance is analyzed in detail and is shown to mimic a number of important features of the acquisition of English noun and verb morphology in young children. These include an initial error-free period of performance on both nouns and verbs followed by a period of intermittent over-regularization of irregular nouns and verbs. Errors in the model show evidence of phonological conditioning and frequency effects. Furthermore, the network demonstrates a strong tendency to regularize denominal verbs and deverbal nouns and masters the principles of voicing assimilation. Despite their incorporation into a single-system network, nouns and verbs exhibit some important differences in their profiles of acquisition. Most importantly, noun inflections are acquired earlier than verb inflections. The simulations generate several empirical predictions that can be used to evaluate further the suitability of this type of cognitive architecture in the domain of inflectional morphology



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