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Language Evolution: The Windows Approach

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Academic Paper


Title: Gender-marked determiners help Dutch learners' word recognition when gender information itself does not
Author: Marieke Van Heugten
Institution: University of Toronto
Author: Elizabeth K. Johnson
Institution: University of Toronto
Linguistic Field: Language Acquisition
Subject Language: Dutch
English
Abstract: Dutch, unlike English, contains two gender-marked forms of the definite article. Does the presence of multiple definite article forms lead Dutch learners to be delayed relative to English learners in the acquisition of their determiner system? Using the Preferential Looking Procedure, we found that Dutch-learning children aged 1 ; 7 to 2 ; 0 use articles during sentence comprehension in a fashion comparable to similarly aged English learners. That is, Dutch learners' sentence processing was impaired when a nonsense (se) as opposed to real article (de, het) preceded target words, much like English learners' sentence processing is disrupted by the use of a nonsense article. At the same time, however, gender cues did not help Dutch learners recognize target nouns more efficiently, indicating that gender has yet to be acquired. Thus, although Dutch-learning children aged 1 ; 7 to 2 ; 0 have not mastered all aspects of their language's article system, they nonetheless use their partial knowledge of articles during speech processing.

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This article appears IN Journal of Child Language Vol. 38, Issue 1, which you can READ on Cambridge's site or on LINGUIST .



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