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Bilingual children's production of regular and irregular past tense morphology*



This study examined the production of the Dutch past tense in Dutch–Hebrew bilingual children and investigated the effect of type of past tense allomorph (de versus te) and token frequency on productions of the past tense. Seven-year-old bilingual children (n=11) were compared with monolingual children: age-matched (n=30) and younger vocabulary-matched (n=21). Accuracy of regular and novel past tense was similar for the bilingual and monolingual groups, but the former group was worse on irregular past tense than the age-matched monolingual peers. All three groups showed effects of type frequency: te past tenses were more accurate than de. The difference between the bilingual and monolingual children surfaces in the extent of the effect: for the bilingual children it was most pronounced in verbs with low token frequency and novel verbs. Results are interpreted as stemming from a learning strategy or from phonological transfer from the Hebrew morphosyntactic system.


Corresponding author

Address for correspondence: Judith Rispens, University of Amsterdam, Department of General Linguistics, Spuistraat 210, 1012 VT Amsterdam, the Netherlands


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The authors would like to thank Marlize Visser for her help with the data collection of the Dutch–Hebrew children, and all children for their participation. We are grateful for the comments of three anonymous reviewers on an earlier draft of this paper.



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