Calculating a pattern’s competitive strength: Competition between /æ/ and /ʌ/ in irregular simple pasts and past participles in English

E. Hoekstra, A.A. Merkuur, Marjoleine Sloos, Jeroen van de Weijer

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Abstract

This article proposes a measure of the competitive strength of two rival patterns in the domain of a subgroup of irregular verbs in English. There is competition between simple pasts built on the vowels /æ/ and /ʌ/, and the same competition is found in the domain of past participles. As a result of such competition, the past tense stang (from sting) was replaced with stung. The /ʌ/ forms are more competitive than the /æ/ forms (Bybee & Slobin 2007, Bybee & Moder 2007). To understand this, we counted the number of types for /æ/ (such as sang, rang) and /ʌ/ (such as stung, stuck) in the irregular simple past and did the same in the irregular participle (such as sat, had and sung, done). We calculated a measure of competitiveness for these two patterns incorporating type frequency and token frequency. This measure was used to explain why /ʌ/ forms are more competitive than /æ/ forms.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)143-157
JournalThe Mental Lexicon
Volume13
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Keywords

  • token frequency
  • log scaling
  • type frequency
  • competition
  • irregular verbs
  • English

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