Rules vs. Analogy in Spanish Irregular Verbs

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Revision as of 10:12, 24 August 2010 by Presson (Talk | contribs) (Independent variables)

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PIs Nora Presson, Brian MacWhinney, Nuria Sagarra
Faculty MacWhinney
Postdocs n/a
Others with > 160 hours n/a
Study Start Date 04/01/10
Study End Date 06/01/10
Learnlab n/a
Number of participants (total) 105
Number of participants (treatment)
Total Participant Hours ~350
Datashop? Not yet


The goal of this experiment was to test explicit instruction of when irregular verbs take a change in the stem, and when they use a regular affixation pattern. We gave beginning Spanish students practice conjugating verbs that have irregularity in some inflected forms. Two irregularity types were compared: stem-change verbs, where the pattern of transformations is predictable based on a large gang of similar irregular verbs, and spelling-change verbs, where the pattern of transformations is predictable based on the spelling and the phonology of the inflected form and the infinitive. We compared explicit formulations of "when to change" the stem of a verb with an analogical comparison condition, where instead of a rule formulation, participants saw a similarly irregular verb they knew (judged by the instructor) conjugated appropriately as a model.


Research question

  • What is the baseline accuracy (latency) for producing inflected verb forms for irregular verbs (i.e., verbs where at least one form requires an idiosyncratic transformation)?
  • Do forms that require a transformation (irregular forms) show lower accuracy (higher latency) than forms that do not, even when the verb itself is irregular?
  • Do spelling change verbs, where the change is predictable from the spelling of the infinitive, show different response patterns than stem change verbs, which are not visible from the infinitive?
  • Does providing a rule about when change of the stem is necessary improve performance compared to providing a known form that is transformed in the same way as the practice verb?
  • How does the amount of improvement after practice depend on:
    • Regularity of the form
    • Instruction type (rule vs. exemplar)
    • Change type (spelling vs. stem)

Background and significance

Dependent variables

  • Response accuracy (% inflected forms typed correctly at first attempt)
  • Response latency (seconds to type inflected form)

Independent variables

  • Spelling change verbs compared to stem change verbs
  • Practice with a rule (e.g., for arrancar, a spelling change verb, "c --> qu when ending begins with e or i"; for volver, a stem change verb, "o --> ue when syllable is stressed") vs. practice with an analogy (a verb following the same pattern of irregularity that their teacher judged would be familiar)
  • Forms that do require a transformation to the stem (irregular) vs. forms that do not (regular)
  • Test time (pre-test, post-test, 1-week follow-up)





Annotated bibliography