Vigo International Journal of Applied Linguistics VIAL

Kristof Baten (1) and Ludovic De Cuypere (1). The dative alternation in L2 German? Conceptualization transfer from L1 Dutch. VIAL. Number 11/2014: 9-40.


In Dutch, a ditransitive verb can take two alternating patterns ( "the dative alternation" ): the Double Object Construction (DOC) (’Jan geeft het meisje een boek’) and the prepositional construction (POC) (’Jan geeft een boek aan het meisje’). The choice of one of both constructions is associated with multiple discourse- pragmatic factors. In German, however, the POC is ungrammatical with a verb such as geben, ’to give’: ’Jan gibt ein Buch *[an das Mädchen]’. This article reports on two sentence rating experiments (acceptability judgments) to test whether Dutch learners of German transfer their preferences about the dative alternation to the ditransitive construction in German. If no transfer were involved, (proficient) learners of L2 German are expected to consistently rate the DOC as the only possible choice in German. We found, however, a positive correlation between the sentence ratings of Dutch native speakers and learners of German. Our results further indicated that the DOC construction was consistently rated higher in German than in Dutch. Taken together, these findings suggest that although the German learners seem to be aware that the DOC is the default order in German, their choice is nonetheless associated with their L1-intuitions about the dative alternation. We discuss these results in the context of Slobin’s Thinking-for-Speaking Hypothesis and Jarvis’ Conceptual Transfer Hypothesis (more specifically, Conceptualization Transfer). We argue more specifically that the conceptualization of the dative alternation in the L1 Dutch is the blueprint, i.e. the thinking-for-speaking, for the structures in L2.

Keywords: Foreign Language Acquisition, Cross-Linguistic Influence, Dative alternation, Dutch/German, Acceptability Judgments

(1) Ghent University, Belgium.

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