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An example of overregularization


A part of the language-learning process in which children extend regular grammatical patterns to irregular words, such as the use of goed for went. Also known as regularization.

See also:

Examples and Observations:

  • "[O]ne of the first rules that English-speaking children apply is to add -s to form the plural. Overregularization leads many young children to talk about foots, tooths, sheeps, and mouses. They may even put the -s on adjectives when the adjectives are acting as nouns, as in this dinner-table exchange between my 3-year-old and her father:
    Sarah: I want somes.
    Father: You want some what?
    Sarah: I want some mores.
    Father: Some more what?
    Sarah: I want some more chickens.
    Although technically wrong, overregularization is actually a sign of verbal sophistication: it shows that children are applying the rules. Indeed, as young children become more conscious of grammatical usages, they exhibit increasingly sophisticated misapplication of them. A child who at age 2 correctly says she 'broke' a glass may at age 4 say she 'braked' one and then at age 5 say she 'did braked' another."
    (Kathleen Stassen Berger, The Developing Person Through Childhood and Adolescence. Macmillan, 2003)

  • "Regularization errors have been taken as evidence either that children rely on a template or schema for producing a stem and inflection, or that they have started to make use of an abstract rule . . ..

    "Many observers, from at least Rousseau on, have noticed that children tend to regularize their language, getting rid of many irregular forms in adult use. Berko (1958) was one of the first people to offer experimental evidence that by age five to seven, children had identified different inflectional affixes and were able to add them to nonsense stems they had never heard before."
    (Eve V. Clark, First Language Acquisition. Cambridge Univ. Press, 2003)
Also Known As: regularization

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