Wolfgang U. Dressler Sabine Laaha

The impact of types of analogy on first language acquisition

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With the background of the theoretical model of Natural Morphology and in a critical comparison with differently-inspired models of first language acquisition, different types of analogy are studied in early first-language acquisition of German verb and noun inflection. But first, basic lines of conceiving analogy are traced from Ancient Greek grammarians to our times, ending with our Viennese acquisition model, which has a gradual tripartition of morphological patterns between productive vs. unproductive rules vs. schemas (relevant only for isolated paradigms and families of paradigms). This includes a two-step model of productivity of patterns/rules. In an error analysis of longitudinal spontaneous data we distinguish extragrammatical surface analogies, overgeneralisation of fully productive patterns (both change and no change), much less frequently of partially productive patterns, and briefly of unproductive patterns, finally compromise forms. Then different test data and finally the learning of correct forms and of their distinction from potential forms are analysed. No isolated irregular patterns are ever overgeneralised. Thus degree of productivity appears to have the highest impact on the formation of analogies in first language acquisition.


  • acquisition of German inflection
  • analogy
  • first language acquisition
  • Natural Morphology
  • productivity


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