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Title:Overtensing within Optimality Theory
Authors:Joseph Stemberger
Abstract:This paper addresses errors that have become known in the developmental
literature as overtensing errors, such as:
I didn't broke it. ‘I didn't break it.'
In prototypical examples of overtensing errors, a verb that appears with the past-tense
auxiliary DID or DIDN'T should appear in the base form but erroneously appears in the
past tense. Overtensing errors have a number of interesting characteristics.
(1) They are sensitive to the difference between regular and irregular verbs,
and generally occur more often with irregular verbs.
(2) They are sensitive to phonological factors, and generally occur more often
with verbs that have phonological characteristics that are preferred in English.
This is true for both regular and irregular verbs.
(3) They are sensitive to lexical frequency, and generally occur more often on
low-frequency verbs.
These characteristics hold for both child language and for adult language.

This paper explores theoretical mechanisms in OT for explaining the observed
patterns, beginning with observations about tense-marking and morphosyntactic
constraints, then exploring effects of (ir)regularity, phonology, and frequency.
The paper concludes with comments about phonology-syntax interactions.
Type:Paper/tech report
Area/Keywords:Phonology,Syntax,Morphology,Language Acquisition,Psycholinguistics
Article:Version 1