Children's Computation of Complex Linguistic Forms: A Study of Frequency and Imageability Effects

Cristina D. Dye, Matthew Walenski, Elizabeth L. Prado, Stewart Mostofsky, Michael T. Ullman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


This study investigates the storage vs. composition of inflected forms in typically-developing children. Children aged 8-12 were tested on the production of regular and irregular past-tense forms. Storage (vs. composition) was examined by probing for past-tense frequency effects and imageability effects - both of which are diagnostic tests for storage - while controlling for a number of confounding factors. We also examined sex as a factor. Irregular inflected forms, which must depend on stored representations, always showed evidence of storage (frequency and/or imageability effects), not only across all children, but also separately in both sexes. In contrast, for regular forms, which could be either stored or composed, only girls showed evidence of storage. This pattern is similar to that found in previously-acquired adult data from the same task, with the notable exception that development affects which factors influence the storage of regulars in females: imageability plays a larger role in girls, and frequency in women. Overall, the results suggest that irregular inflected forms are always stored (in children and adults, and in both sexes), whereas regulars can be either composed or stored, with their storage a function of various item- and subject-level factors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere74683
JournalPloS one
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 9 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General


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