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BY 4.0 license Open Access Published by De Gruyter Open Access April 9, 2019

The role of case and animacy in bi-and monolingual children’s sentence interpretation in German: a developmental perspective

  • Jana Gamper EMAIL logo
From the journal Open Linguistics


German-speaking children appear to have a strong N1-bias when interpreting non-canonical OVSsentences. During sentence interpretation, especially unambiguous accusative and dative case markers (den ‘the-ACC’ and dem ‘the-DAT’) weaken the N1-bias and help building up sentence interpretation strategies on the basis of morphological cues. Still, the N1-bias prevails beyond the age of five (Brandt et al. 2016, Cristante 2016, Dittmar et al. 2008) and remains until puberty (Lidzba et al. 2013). This paper investigates whether prototypical case-animacy coalitions (denACC + NINANIMATE and demDAT + NANIMATE ) strengthen a morphologically based sentence interpretation strategy in German. The experiment discussed in this paper tests for effects of such case-animacy coalitions in mono- and bilingual primary school children. 20 German monolinguals, 12 Dutch-German and 17 Russian-German bilinguals with a mean age of 9;6 were tested in a forced-choice off-line experiment. Results indicate that case-animacy coalitions weaken the N1-bias in OVS-conditions in German monolinguals and Dutch-German bilinguals, while no effects were found for Russian-German bilinguals. Together with an analysis of individual differences, these group-specific effects are discussed in terms of a developmental approach that represents a gradual cue strength adjustment process in mono- and bilingual children.


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Received: 2017-10-31
Accepted: 2019-01-09
Published Online: 2019-04-09

© 2019 Jana Gamper, published by De Gruyter Open

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Public License.

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