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Child Development Research
Volume 2012, Article ID 401680, 12 pages
Research Article

Children’s Tolerance of Word-Form Variation

1Department of Psychology, College of Staten Island, City University of New York, 2800 Victory Boulevard, 4S-108, Staten Island, NY 10314, USA
2Learning Research and Development Center, University of Pittsburgh, 3939 O'Hara Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15260, USA
3Division of Psychology, University of Abertay Dundee, Bell Street, Dundee, Scotland DD1 1HG, UK
4Division of Humanities, Vytautas Magnus University, Donelaicio 58, 44248 Kaunas, Lithuania

Received 26 July 2012; Accepted 8 October 2012

Academic Editor: Annie Vinter

Copyright © 2012 Paul R. Bruening et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


How much morphological variation can children tolerate when identifying familiar words? This is an important question in the context of the acquisition of richly inflected languages where identical word forms occur far less frequently than in English. To address this question, we compared children’s ( , mean age 4;1, range 2;11–5;1) and adults’ ( , mean age 21 years) tolerance of word-onset modifications (e.g., for stug: wug and wastug) and pseudoaffixes (e.g., kostug and stugko) in a label-extension task. Word-form modifications were repeated within each experiment to establish productive inflectional patterns. In two experiments, children and adults exhibited similar strategies: they were more tolerant of prefixes (wastug) than substitutions of initial consonants (wug), and more tolerant of suffixes (stugko) than prefixes (kostug). The findings point to word-learning strategies as being flexible and adaptive to morphological patterns in languages.