Regularizing Unpredictable Variation: Evidence from a Natural Language Setting

Alison Eisel Hendricks, Karen Miller, Carrie N. Jackson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


While previous sociolinguistic research has demonstrated that children faithfully acquire probabilistic input constrained by sociolinguistic and linguistic factors (e.g., gender and socioeconomic status), research suggests children regularize inconsistent input—probabilistic input that is not sociolinguistically constrained (e.g., Hudson Kam & Newport, 2005, 2009; Singleton & Newport, 2004). The current study extends this research to investigate how children acquire grammatical forms when they are exposed to inconsistent input at the community-wide level by investigating the acquisition of inconsistently produced gender in Fering, a dialect of North Frisian. The results of a gender elicitation task show that some children regularize inconsistently produced features, while others approximated the adult-like probability patterns in their input. Those children who approximated the adult-like patterns were exposed to more Fering input than their peers who regularized gender. These results highlight the importance of input quantity in the context of community-wide inconsistent input, and demonstrate that when given sufficient input, children can acquire inconsistent patterns in the input.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)42-60
Number of pages19
JournalLanguage Learning and Development
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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