Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Patricia J. Brooks

Committee Members

Laraine McDonough

Deborah J. Walder

Sara E. Berger

Natalie A. Kacinik

Subject Categories

Cognitive Psychology | Developmental Psychology | Psychology


developmental psychology, linguistics, cognitive psychology


This study compared children's (N=96, mean age 4;1, range 2;8-5;3) and adults' (N=96, mean age 21 years) tolerance of word-onset modifications (e.g., wabbit and warabbit) and pseudo affixes (e.g., kocat and catko) in a label extension task. Trials comprised an introductory phase where children saw a picture of an animal and were told its name, and a test phase where they were shown the same picture along with one of a different animal. For `similar-name' trials, participants heard a word-form modification of the previously introduced name (e.g., introduced to a dib, they were asked, `which animal is a wib?'). For `dissimilar-name' trials, participants heard an entirely new word (e.g., introduced to a dib, they were asked, `which animal is a wuz?'). Specific types of modifications were repeated within each experiment to establish productive inflectional patterns. Across all experiments, children and adults exhibited similar strategies: They were more tolerant of prefixes than onset-modifications involving substitutions of initial consonants, and they were more tolerant of suffixes than prefixes, which may reflect a statistical tendency for inflections to adhere to the ends of words. Additionally, participants parsed novel productive inflections from stems when choosing targets. These findings point to word learning strategies as being flexible and adaptive to morphological patterns in languages.