Jornal de Distúrbios da Comunicação, Estudos Surdos e Aparelhos Auditivos

Jornal de Distúrbios da Comunicação, Estudos Surdos e Aparelhos Auditivos
Acesso livre

ISSN: 2375-4427


Acquiring Nominal Gender by Deaf Learners and Hearing Adult Second Language Learners of Dutch

Joanne van Emmerik, Jetske Klatter, Roeland van Hout, Ineke van de Craats and Job Schepens

In this paper the acquisition of Dutch gender by deaf Dutch adults and hearing adult Turkish and Moroccan L2 learners of Dutch is discussed. Although, in the Netherlands, gender acquisition has been studied amply in ethnic minority children and adolescents, research with regard to ethnic minority adults and deaf adults is limited. The analysis of gender data was part of a comprehensive investigation of (writing) skills in these groups. The data were collected via a (semi-) spontaneous language task in which learners were invited to compose The Frog Story on the computer. Discovering and acquiring the gender paradigm turned out to be hard for the learner groups we investigated. Singular common nouns in Dutch take the definite determiner de and neuter nouns the definite determiner het. The results showed that in all learner groups most learners over generalized the use of de to neuter nouns. The reverse, the use of het with common nouns, hardly occurred. With respect to gender acquisition no differences were found between the various learner groups. The outcomes suggest that, in the domain of gender, the acquisition process in deaf learners of Dutch is comparable to the process of acquisition in hearing adult L2 learners of Dutch, despite their different learner situations (late L1 vs. late L2) and, in case of the adult L2 learners, their typologically different first languages. The explanation seems to be passing general learning stages, in combination with the disbalance between the effort required to learn a covert nominal gender distinction and the absence of informative or communicative value in using the gender distinction properly. This disbalance seems to lead to stagnation or fossization in early stages, in all learner groups.