Phonology-morphology interaction: Acquisition of Danish noun plurals as a test case

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Abstract



Phonetic and phonological structure has impact on the acquisition of morphology. Departing from our different types of empirical data, we shall test four specific hypotheses on this impact in Danish, all relying on the principle that opacity delays acquisition:
1) The two overt native plural suffixes in Danish contribute to an opaque syllable structure with few and vague cues for identifying the suffix boundaries, thus plural acquisition in Danish should be late.
2) If the plural suffix is subject to dropping, there is less transparency. Since e-schwa, but not a-schwa, often is reduced or dropped, the a-schwa suffix should be acquired early.
3) Phoneme change in the root is a strong opacifying factor, but not deletion of a thematic final element, nor change in word prosody (vowel length or stød in Danish). Plural formation with changes of phonemes in the root has less transparency, thus plural formation with umlaut and r-insertion should be late, as against plurals with other or no stem changes.
4) If the plural formation is phonologically void (pure zeroes), there is less transparency, thus pure zero plurals should be late. Since Danish has a considerable amount of pure zeroes, singular instead of plural is expected to be a rather frequent error type in Danish children (cf. Gillis et al. 2008).

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Original languageEnglish
Publication date10. Sept 2010
Publication statusPublished - 10. Sept 2010

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