Past-tense generation from form versus meaning: Behavioural data and simulation evidence

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The standard task used to study inflectional processing of verbs involves presentation of the stem form from which the participant is asked to generate the past tense. This task reveals a processing disadvantage for irregular relative to regular English verbs, more pronounced for lower-frequency items. Dual- and single-mechanism theories of inflectional morphology are both able to account for this pattern; but the models diverge in their predictions concerning the magnitude of the regularity effect expected when the task involves past-tense generation from meaning. In this study, we asked normal speakers to generate the past tense from either form (verb stem) or meaning (action picture). The robust regularity effect observed in the standard form condition was no longer reliable when participants were required to generate the past tense from meaning. This outcome would appear problematic for dual-mechanism theories to the extent that they assume the process of inflection requires stem retrieval. By contrast, it supports single-mechanism models that consider stem retrieval to be task-dependent. We present a single-mechanism model of verb inflection incorporating distributed phonological and semantic representations that reproduces this task-dependent pattern. © 2009 Elsevier Inc.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)55-76
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Memory and Language
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2009