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The acquisition of gender marking by young German-speaking children: Evidence for learning guided by phonological regularities*

  • GISELA SZAGUN (a1), BARBARA STUMPER (a1), NINA SONDAG (a1) and MELANIE FRANIK (a1)

Abstract

The acquisition of noun gender on articles was studied in a sample of 21 young German-speaking children. Longitudinal spontaneous speech data were used. Data analysis is based on 22 two-hourly speech samples per child from 6 children between 1 ; 4 and 3 ; 8 and on 5 two-hourly speech samples per child from 15 children between 1 ; 4 and 2 ; 10. The use of gender marked articles occurred from 1 ; 5. Error frequencies dropped below 10% by 3 ; 0. Definite and indefinite articles were used with similar frequencies and error rates did not differ in the two paradigms. Children's errors were systematic. For monosyllabic nouns and for polysyllabic nouns ending in -el, -en and -er errors were more frequent for nouns which did not conform to the rule that such nouns tend to be masculine. Furthermore, children erred in the direction of the rule overgeneralizing der. Correct gender marking was also associated with adult frequency of noun use. The present data is evidence for the early use of phonological regularities of noun structure in the acquisition of gender marking.

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Corresponding author

Address for correspondence: Dr Gisela Szagun, Department of Psychology, Gebäude A6, Carl-von-Ossietzky Universität Oldenburg, Postfach 2503, 26111 Oldenburg, Germany. Tel: +441 798 5146. Fax: +441 798 5170. e-mail: gisela.szagun@googlemail.com

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The acquisition of gender marking by young German-speaking children: Evidence for learning guided by phonological regularities*

  • GISELA SZAGUN (a1), BARBARA STUMPER (a1), NINA SONDAG (a1) and MELANIE FRANIK (a1)

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