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The adoption of linguistic rules in native and non-native speakers: Evidence from a Wug task

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Christine CuskleyORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND).


Several recent theories have suggested that an increase in the number of non-native speakers in a language can lead to changes in morphological rules. We examine this experimentally by contrasting the performance of native and non-native English speakers in a simple Wug-task, showing that non-native speakers are significantly more likely to provide non -ed (i.e., irregular) past-tense forms for novel verbs than native speakers. Both groups are sensitive to sound similarities between new words and existing words (i.e., are more likely to provide irregular forms for novel words which sound similar to existing irregulars). Among both natives and non-natives, irregularizations are non-random; that is, rather than presenting as truly irregular inflectional strategies, they follow identifiable sub-rules present in the highly frequent set of irregular English verbs. Our results shed new light on how native and non-native learners can affect language structure.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Cuskley C, Colaiori F, Castellano C, Loreto V, Pugliese M, Tria F

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Memory and Language

Year: 2015

Volume: 84

Pages: 205-223

Print publication date: 01/10/2015

Online publication date: 08/07/2015

Acceptance date: 18/06/2015

Date deposited: 09/05/2019

ISSN (print): 0749-596X

ISSN (electronic): 1096-0821

Publisher: Elsevier


DOI: 10.1016/j.jml.2015.06.005


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