Do case and gender information assist sentence comprehension and repetition for German- and Hebrew-speaking children?

Michal Biran, Esther Ruigendijk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Various types of morphological information can serve as cues to assist comprehension and production of complex sentences, i.e., case and/or gender information. These cues are realized differently in different languages, and thus might have different effects.We examined the effects of case and gender information on comprehension and repetition of wh-questions and topicalization sentences, for German- and Hebrew-speaking typically developing children, and compared between the two languages. The participants were typically developing children, 3-6;8 years old, German- and Hebrew-speaking.Comprehension was examined using a picture-matching task and production by using a repetition task. In half of the sentences the two figures were of the same gender and in half - of different genders. In Hebrew this difference manifests on verb agreement and in German - on the determiner. We compared between the children's performance on the different types of sentences, and between sentences with and without the gender/case cues.Findings show the classical subject-object asymmetry in comprehension and repetition, and display a difference between German and Hebrew in the way cues assist comprehension and repetition. We argue that the difference between the facilitating effect of gender and case information relates to whether it is realized on subject-verb agreement or not.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)215-238
Number of pages24
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2015

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Julia Herbst, Nadine Haufe, Anna Kraßmann and Elena Fehrmann who collected the German data, and Doreen Penzak and Neomi Nathan for their help in collecting the Hebrew data. We furthermore thank our anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments. The research was supported by the COST IS0804 STSM grant.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Elsevier B.V.


  • Case
  • Gender
  • German
  • Hebrew
  • Language acquisition
  • Word order

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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