Grammatical gender and article use in beginning learners of German

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Acquiring nouns' grammatical gender, corresponding articles, and their morphological variants is one of the biggest challenges for adult learners of German. In this study, we analyze determiner noun phrases (NPs) produced orally by Spanish L1/English L2 beginning learners of German L3. We explore the extent to which L3 learners correctly produce determiner NPs including the appropriately marked grammatical gender, the extent to which they have become sensitive to nouns' formal gender cues, and the factors that help them cope with the complexity of the German article and gender systems. We pay special attention to the possibility of cross-linguistic influence (CLI) in L3 learners' article/gender choices according to predictions made by the Parasitic Model of vocabulary acquisition. The results suggest that learners reduce the complexity of the article/ gender selection task by resorting to CLI, the adoption of gender from assumed lexical equivalents, and by over-using the most frequent forms (ein-masc/neu and die-fem) which also are the phonologically least complex and most similar forms to equivalents in the L1 and/or L2. Formal gender cues only have a limited effect on article choice for the learners at this early stage of acquisition. Sensitivity to gender cues emerges only for the most frequent cue types and in association with definite (not indefinite) article use.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Acquisition of Gender. Crosslinguistic perspectives
EditorsDalila Ayoun
PublisherJohn Benjamins Publishing Company
Number of pages30
ISBN (Electronic)9789027258397
StatePublished - 2022

Publication series

NameStudies in Bilingualism
ISSN (Print)0928-1533


  • Articles
  • Errors
  • German
  • Grammatical gender
  • Second language
  • Third language

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language


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