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Start Date

April 2021

Document Type

Oral Presentation

Department

Linguistics

Faculty Mentor

Jeanne Heil, PhD

Keywords

linguistics, gender morphology, number morphology, English, French, Spanish

Abstract

Romance language gender and number morphology poses an acquisitional hurtle for second language (L2) learners whose first language (L1) is English. Languages with grammatical gender, such as French and Spanish, mark gender and number on determiners and pronouns, whereas English only marks gender and number on certain pronouns. Previous research has found that L1 English L2 French and L1 English L2 Spanish learners at the intermediate level do not show consistent evidence of gender and number morphology in production, which is hypothesized to be due to either a representational deficit (e.g., Hawkins & Hattori, 2006) or a production deficit (e.g., Prévost & White, 2000). A representational deficit account predicts that performance errors are due to learners having mental grammars that lack certain features such as grammatical gender. A production deficit, however, is characterized by learners having the correct mental grammar without consistent accurate performance. This project has been designed to test intermediate French and Spanish learners at USM who are native speakers of English for their knowledge of gender and number using methods that don’t rely on production. Additionally, I hypothesize that English learners may show knowledge of number but not gender in these pronouns, as the former exists in the L1 and the latter does not, as a possible account for the inconsistent morphology. As such, items were designed to rely on either a correct interpretation of gender or number. Specifically, I asked: do 200-level second language learners of French and Spanish show knowledge of number and gender in clitic pronouns on a forced choice task, and is there a difference between knowledge of number and knowledge of gender?

TM2021_Ward.pdf (331 kB)
Cross-linguistic acquisition of gender and number morphology: a study of intermediate L2 French and L2 Spanish - Slides

TM2021_Ward-J_transcript.txt (17 kB)
Cross-linguistic acquisition of gender and number morphology: a study of intermediate L2 French and L2 Spanish - transcript

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Apr 30th, 12:00 AM

Cross-linguistic acquisition of gender and number morphology: a study of intermediate L2 French and L2 Spanish

Romance language gender and number morphology poses an acquisitional hurtle for second language (L2) learners whose first language (L1) is English. Languages with grammatical gender, such as French and Spanish, mark gender and number on determiners and pronouns, whereas English only marks gender and number on certain pronouns. Previous research has found that L1 English L2 French and L1 English L2 Spanish learners at the intermediate level do not show consistent evidence of gender and number morphology in production, which is hypothesized to be due to either a representational deficit (e.g., Hawkins & Hattori, 2006) or a production deficit (e.g., Prévost & White, 2000). A representational deficit account predicts that performance errors are due to learners having mental grammars that lack certain features such as grammatical gender. A production deficit, however, is characterized by learners having the correct mental grammar without consistent accurate performance. This project has been designed to test intermediate French and Spanish learners at USM who are native speakers of English for their knowledge of gender and number using methods that don’t rely on production. Additionally, I hypothesize that English learners may show knowledge of number but not gender in these pronouns, as the former exists in the L1 and the latter does not, as a possible account for the inconsistent morphology. As such, items were designed to rely on either a correct interpretation of gender or number. Specifically, I asked: do 200-level second language learners of French and Spanish show knowledge of number and gender in clitic pronouns on a forced choice task, and is there a difference between knowledge of number and knowledge of gender?

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