The Northern Subject Rule: Constraints without Input

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The Northern Subject Rule (NSR) is a grammatical pattern which allows verbs in the third person plural to have a verbal –s ending. The NSR is restricted by the Type of Subject constraint and the Subject Adjacency constraint. Hoendervangers (2016) found that speakers of Standard English and speakers of Dutch with English as their second language are sensitive to the NSR despite the fact that the NSR’s pattern is not part of the grammar of their first language. She uncovered grammatical knowledge in these two speaker groups that goes beyond the input (see also Barbiers et al. (2015)). The results for the Dutch speaker group can be related to grammatical properties of Dutch, while the results for the English speaker group can be related to language contact. This study aims to replicate Hoendervangers’ effect by examining Danish. Danish does not have subject-verb agreement and language contact between Danish speakers and speakers of the NSR is not likely. The results from a grammatical judgment test suggest that Danish speakers are also sensitive towards the NSR’s constraints. This suggests that the NSR and its constraints are related to linguistic knowledge which may be universal, or at least rises above the grammatical knowledge obtained through the input.
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