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Southern African Linguistics and Applied Language Studies

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Regularisation of irregular verbs in child English second language acquisition

Francina L Moloi

Abstract


The present study was conducted within the theory of the Blocking Principle, originally associated with Braine (1971) (who said that there is a blocking of the use of lexical generalisations) and later refined by researchers such as Marcus et al. (1992), and Pinker (1995, 1999) who specifically proposed the interference of the blocking facility when the regular inflection rules are erroneously attached on irregular forms. Basing their conclusions on studies that were conducted on acquisition of English and German noun and verb inflections, these researchers proposed that, through the Blocking Principle, the use of the regular inflections with irregular verbs and nouns is automatically and subconsciously blocked. The present study was conducted in order to answer the research question: What interlanguage rules do children apply to acquire English as a second language (L2) diverse forms of irregular verbs? It hypothesised that, in L2 acquisition, children may be puzzled by the blocking and unblocking of the rule and seek their own interlanguage rules. Data was collected from the language of English medium preschool children. The study concludes that when the Blocking Principle interferes, children resort to a novel interlanguage rule that regularises irregular verbs. This interlanguage rule applies in a similar way to all irregular verbs, thus children produce utterances such as ‘I did (unstressed) fall here’. This conclusion accounts for the apparent scarcity of the regular past tense rule overgeneralisation in the English (L2) data from Sesotho-speaking children (Moloi, 1996, 2001).

Southern African Linguistics and Applied Language Studies 2013, 31(1): 61–70



http://dx.doi.org/10.2989/16073614.2013.793951
AJOL African Journals Online