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Article

Acquisition of nominal morphophonological alternations in Russian

First Language. 2017. Vol. 37. No. 5. P. 453-474.
Tomas E., van de Vijver R., Demuth K., Petocz P.

Morphophonological alternations can make target-like production of grammatical morphemes challenging due to changes in form depending on the phonological environment. This article explores the acquisition of morphophonological alternations involving the interacting patterns of vowel deletion and stress shift in Russian-speaking children (aged 4;0–7;11) using a ‘wug’ test with real and nonce words. Depending on the phonological context, participants were expected to either delete vowels (e.g. ko'mokNom,sg – kom'kaGen,sg) or preserve them (e.g. pji´lotNom,sg – pji´lotaGen,sg). The results showed that children’s sensitivity to morphophonological patterns increases with age: 4-year-olds tended to preserve underlying vowels and stress across conditions, whereas older children demonstrated growing accuracy, at least with real words. Stressed vowels were more appropriately alternated and preserved across conditions, suggesting suprasegmental effects on the acquisition of segmental alternation patterns in Russian.