Second language learning benefits from similarity in word endings: evidence from Russian: evidence from Russian

Patricia J. Brooks, Vera Kempe, Annemarie Donachie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Diminutive derivations (e.g., froggy, bootie) constitute morphophonologically similar clusters of words in child-directed speech and serve as low-level schema for learning morphological regularities. Previous research has demonstrated that by regularizing noun endings, diminutives (e.g., Russian: domik, svechka) facilitate word-boundary identification and the acquisition of inflectional morphology. In this study, adult native speakers of English (N = 77) were exposed to diminutive and simplex transparently gender-marked nouns instantiating Russian case-marking and adjective-noun gender- agreement patterns, over six 1-hour language-learning sessions. They were subsequently tested on their ability to extend grammatical patterns to new items and vocabulary recall. Learners showed equivalent learning of the trained phrases containing diminutive and simplex nouns but were more accurate in generalizing morphological patterns to diminutive nouns. Furthermore, learners showed a diminutive advantage in vocabulary retention. By increasing the invariant parts of words, diminutive derivations may reduce the amount of phonological material to be memorized and, subsequently, enhance word learning.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1142–1172
Number of pages31
JournalLanguage Learning
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2011


  • Diminutives
  • Schema learning
  • Russian as a foreign language
  • Probabilistic learning
  • Gender agreement
  • Case marking
  • Vocabulary learning
  • Developmental experimentation
  • Morphophonology


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