Basima Mahmood

Research project

Language Change and (ir)regularization

For the last decades, many studies have argued for and against procedural differences in the cognitive processing of regular versus irregular aspects of language. The acquisition of English past tense and plural inflection has provided evidence for widely differing theories of morphological representation. The debate has tended to focus on the question of whether regular and irregular forms are processed by a single-mechanism system that can be either a rule-based mechanism (all inflected words are generated by rules) or an associative single-mechanism (all inflected words are stored and processed within a single associative system using distributed representations), or dual-mechanism systems in which irregular words are processed through stored full-form representations in the mental lexicon, while regular ones are computed by rules.

In an attempt to add to this debate, this study investigates to what extent current uses of regular and irregular verbs and nouns in the contemporary English may provide evidence for single or dual mechanism by focusing on the question whether only regularization processes apply (favoring a dual mechanism approach) or whether processes of irregularization can also be attested (favoring a single mechanism approach). The web is chosen as a linguistic corpus, as a lot of native and non-native speakers use English as a language contact and accordingly language change in this bilingual community is much more rapid than in monolingual communities.

Research Interests

  • Language change
  • Diachronic syntax
  • Language Acquisition