Processing of irregularities in morphology and the rules of the brain
Associate Professor Mine Nakipoğlu of Boğaziçi University, Istanbul holds a guest lecture on what the acquisition and processing of irregularities in morphology reveal about rules in the brain.
One of the most thought-provoking questions posed in cognitive science and linguistic research over the past 40 years has been whether the human brain implements abstractions in the form of symbolic rules in the acquisition and processing of language.
Linguistic research owes a great deal to the presence of irregularity in inflectional morphology in accounting for whether a rule-based, analogy-free or a rule-free, but analogy-based path is followed in the representation of linguistic knowledge. The present study, bringing in evidence from children’s acquisition and adults’ processing of an irregular pattern in Turkish, namely the aorist, shows how an abstraction/rule regarding the aorist is in the making in child Turkish and how to converge on adult representation, in other words, to master the irregular and the regular forms, the child brain has to develop insensitivity to the analogous forms, in other words, to the phonological properties of the roots.
The findings obtained, complemented with a thorough type/token frequency analysis of the aorist suggest that a rule-based generalization on the basis of the type count of the regular affix is at work and the role of analogy is scarce.