German children's comprehension of word order and case marking in causative sentences

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  • Authors:
  • Miriam Dittmar
  • Kirsten Abbot-Smith
  • Elena Lieven
  • Michael Tomasello


Two comprehension experiments were conducted to investigate whether German children are able to use the grammatical cues of word order and word endings (case markers) to identify agents and patients in a causative sentence and whether they weigh these two cues differently across development. Two-year-olds correctly understood only sentences with both cues supporting each other - the prototypical form. Five-year-olds were able to use word order by itself but not case markers. Only 7-year-olds behaved like adults by relying on case markers over word order when the two cues conflicted. These findings suggest that prototypical instances of linguistic constructions with redundant grammatical marking play a special role in early acquisition, and only later do children isolate and weigh individual grammatical cues appropriately. © 2008, Society for Research in Child Development, Inc.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1152-1167
Number of pages15
JournalChild Development
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2008