This study adjudicates between two opposing accounts of morphological productivity, using English past‐tense as its test case. The single‐route model (e.g., Bybee & Moder, 1983) posits that both regular and irregular past‐tense forms are generated by analogy across stored exemplars in associative memory. In contrast, the dual‐route model (e.g., Prasada & Pinker, 1993) posits that regular inflection requires use of a formal “add ‐ed” rule that does not require analogy across regular past‐tense forms. Children (aged 3–4; 5–6; 6–7; 9–10) saw animations of an animal performing a novel action described with a novel verb (e.g., gezz; chake). Past‐tense forms of novel verbs were elicited by prompting the child to describe what the animal “did yesterday.” Collapsing across age group (since no interaction was observed), the likelihood of a verb being produced in regular past‐tense form (e.g., gezzed; chaked) was positively associated with the verb's similarity to existing regular verbs, consistent with the single‐route model only. Results indicate that children's acquisition of the English past‐tense is best explained by a single‐route analogical mechanism that does not incorporate a role for formal rules.
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