- Grammatical gender and the notion of default: insights from language acquisition
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- Faculty of Humanities (FGw)
- Amsterdam Center for Language and Communication (ACLC)
The aim of this study is to investigate the contrast in the timing of acquisition of grammatical gender attested in Dutch and Greek child learners. Greek children show precocious acquisition of neuter gender in particular, while Dutch children experience a long delay in the acquisition of neuter nouns, which extends to school age. For both Dutch and Greek, neuter has been claimed to be the default gender value on grounds of syntactic distribution in contexts where gender agreement is inert. To reconcile the contrast between the learner and the language facts in Dutch, as well as the contrast in the timing between Greek and Dutch monolingual child learners, we consider two sets of criteria to define the notion of default: one set pertains to the notion of linguistic default and the other to the notion of learner default. We suggest that, whereas Greek neuter is both the linguistic and the learner default value, Dutch neuter is the linguistic but not the learner default, leading to a learnability problem.
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