The Nun Shot the Monk: An investigation into incidental acquisition of German cases and vowel change rules among Dutch adults.

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This thesis explores incidental second language grammar acquisition by investigating learning of German case-gender rules and vowel change rules among Dutch adults. The main research questions are whether incidental learning occurs in this context, whether learning is either strongly data-driven or rule-driven (or if this differs between learners) and how levels of difficulty of the different grammatical rules compare to one another. This was tested using an experiment during which participants were exposed to grammatical sentences while performing a task examining semantic understanding. Participants then performed a grammaticality judgement task (GJT) and a sentence production task. Results show participants were unable to incidentally acquire the case-gender and vowel change rules. This indicates the difficulty of acquiring grammatical elements that do not exist in a learner’s native language. Nominative case is more easily acquired than other cases, which seems to be mostly based on interference of the native language. While evidence for either data-based learning or rule-based learning is inconclusive, large differences between learners have been observed with respect to old-new effects. Future research is needed to further explore learning styles in grammar acquisition.
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