Inhibitory Control is a Rate-Limiting Factor to Preschoolers' Use of Irregular Inflection
Yuile, Amanda Rose
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We investigated whether children’s inhibitory control is associated with their ability to produce irregular verb forms as well as learn from corrective feedback following their use of an over-regularized form. Forty-eight 3.5 to 4.5 year old children were tested on the irregular past tense and provided with adult corrective input via models of correct use or recasts of errors following ungrammatical responses. Inhibitory control was assessed with a three-item battery of tasks that required suppressing a prepotent response in favor of a non-canonical one. Results showed that inhibitory control was predictive of children’s initial production of irregular forms and not associated with their post-feedback production of irregulars. These findings show that children’s executive functioning skills may be a rate-limiting factor on their ability to produce correct forms, but might not interact with their ability to learn from input in this domain. Findings are discussed in terms of current theories of past-tense acquisition and learning from input more broadly.