Input frequencies in processing of verbal morphology in L1 and L2: Evidence from Russian

Elena Tkachenko, Tatiana Chernigovskaya

Abstract


In this study we take a usage-based perspective on the analysis of data from the acquisition of verbal morphology by Norwegian adult learners of L2 Russian, as compared to children acquiring Russian as an L1. According to the usage-based theories, language learning is input-driven and frequency of occurrence of grammatical structures and lexical items in the input plays a key role in this process. We have analysed to what extent the acquisition and processing of Russian verbal morphology by children and adult L2 learners is dependent on the input factors, in particular on type and token frequencies. Our analysis of the L2 input based on the written material used in the instruction shows a different distribution of frequencies as compared to the target language at large. The results of the tests that elicited present tense forms of verbs belonging to four different inflectional classes (-AJ-, -A-, -I-, and -OVA-) have demonstrated that for both Russian children and L2 learners type frequency appears to be an important factor, influencing both correct stem recognition and generalisations. The results have also demonstrated token frequency effects. For L2 learners we observed also effects of formal instruction and greater reliance on morphological cues. In spite of the fact that L2 learners did not match completely any of the child groups, there are many similarities between L1 and L2 morphological processing, the main one being the role of frequency.

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