Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
Based on recent findings showing electrophysiological changes in adult language learners after relatively short periods of training, we hypothesized that adult Dutch learners of German would show responses to German gender and adjective declension violations after brief instruction. Adjective declension in German differs from previously studied morphosyntactic regularities in that the required suffixes depend not only on the syntactic case, gender, and number features to be expressed, but also on whether or not these features are already expressed on linearly preceding elements in the noun phrase. Violation phrases and matched controls were presented over three test phases (pretest and training on the first day, and a posttest one week later). During the pretest, no electrophysiological differences were observed between violation and control conditions, and participants' classification performance was near chance. During the training and posttest phases, classification improved, and there was a P600-like violation response to declension but not gender violations. An error-related response during training was associated with improvement in grammatical discrimination from pretest to posttest. The results show that rapid changes in neuronal responses can be observed in adult learners of a complex morphosyntactic rule, and also that error-related electrophysiological responses may relate to grammar acquisition.