Learning about noun plurals in early Palestinian Arabic

Dorit Ravid, Rola Farah

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

66 Scopus citations


This study examines the acquisition of noun plurals in a dialect of Palestinian Arabic (PA) spoken in the north of Israel. PA has both regular 'sound' plurals which are formed by the attachment of a feminine or masculine suffix to the singular stem, and so-called 'broken' irregular plurals which are formed by internal changes in the singular stem. Forty-eight children aged 2-6 years were presented with a set of singular nouns and were asked to provide the corresponding plural forms. The results indicate different learning patterns for the three plural types: while Sound Masculines and Broken Plurals are learnt gradually, Sound Feminines soar to ceiling level by age 3. Error analysis shows a U- shaped curve of overregularization of broken forms towards the regular sound plurals and, within the category of sound plurals, errors of suffix exchange from Masculine to Feminine plurals, again taking a U-shaped form. In contrast, irregularization errors of exchanging broken for sound and for other broken forms increase with age. The results are discussed in the framework of two models of the acquisition of inflectional morphology: a dual- route model in which two distinct processing systems (symbolic rule application and rote learning) handle regular and irregular forms; and a single-route (connectionist) model which explains the acquisition of both regular and irregular forms by associative memory.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)187-206
Number of pages20
JournalFirst Language
Issue number56
StatePublished - 1999
Externally publishedYes


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