Grammaticalization and first language acquisition – Crosslinguistic perspectives/Grammaticalisation et acquisition des langues premières - Perspectives interlangues
  • ISSN 1879-7865
  • E-ISSN: 1879-7873
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The acquisition of German noun plurals has been the topic of many studies and of much controversy. This study presents a new method of assessing distributional properties of plural suffix application in German in which the predictability of a given suffix (-s, -(e)n, -e, -er or zero) is calculated according to sonority/gender distributions in actual language use, in our case, in child-directed speech. The relevance of suffix predictability is tested in 140 Viennese children from the age of three to nine years by means of a plural elicitation task. Results show that suffix predictability has an impact on children’s correct and erroneous production of plural suffixes. The results are compatible with a usage-based variant of the single-route view which emphasizes speakers’ preference for local generalizations and the role of neighbourhood density in generalization.

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