27.3483, Diss: Asymmetric Grammatical Gender Systems in the Bilingual Mental Lexicon

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LINGUIST List: Vol-27-3483. Fri Sep 02 2016. ISSN: 1069 - 4875.

Subject: 27.3483, Diss: Asymmetric Grammatical Gender Systems in the Bilingual Mental Lexicon

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Date: Fri, 02 Sep 2016 14:50:12
From: Rachel Klassen [r.hm.klassen at gmail.com]
Subject: Asymmetric Grammatical Gender Systems in the Bilingual Mental Lexicon

 
Institution: University of Ottawa 
Program: Department of Modern Languages and Literatures 
Dissertation Status: Completed 
Degree Date: 2016 

Author: Rachel Klassen

Dissertation Title: Asymmetric Grammatical Gender Systems in the Bilingual
Mental Lexicon 

Dissertation URL:  https://www.ruor.uottawa.ca/handle/10393/35087

Linguistic Field(s): Language Acquisition
                     Psycholinguistics
                     Syntax


Dissertation Director(s):
Juana Muñoz-Liceras
Holger Hopp
Alain Desrochers

Dissertation Abstract:

The nature of the bilingual mental lexicon and how the L1 and the L2 interact
in language production and processing has been the focus of decades of
research from linguistic, psycholinguistic and neurolinguistic perspectives.
In spite of this significant body of evidence, the degree to which the L1
influences L2 production and processing remains an area of debate, especially
with respect to formal features such as grammatical gender. While it is clear
that nonnative-like production and processing of L2 grammatical gender persist
even in highly-proficient adult bilinguals, the underlying representation of
the L1 and L2 gender features and how this representation affects the use of
gender in the L2 is currently unclear. Furthermore, there is no evidence at
present regarding the nature of the L1-L2 grammatical gender system when the
L1 and the L2 have asymmetric gender systems (in other words, differ in number
of gender values), as is the case with German, which bears three gender values
(masculine, feminine and neuter), and Spanish and French, which each display
two gender values (masculine and feminine).

This dissertation investigates the representation of and interactions between
the L1 and the L2 at the level of the formal gender feature, with a particular
focus on language pairings with asymmetric gender systems. Through
complementary data from L2 production and processing, I examine the
representation of the asymmetric grammatical gender systems in the mental
lexicon of L1 Spanish-L2 German and L1 French-L2 German bilinguals and the
consequences this asymmetry between the L1 and L2 gender systems has on gender
use strategies in the L2. From the perspective of bilingual lexical access,
this research contributes new evidence to inform existing psycholinguistic
theories of L1-L2 gender interactions and also proposes the Asymmetric gender
representation hypothesis, a new model to account for the unique integrated
nature of the gender system in bilinguals with L1-L2 asymmetric gender
systems. From a language acquisition perspective, the present study provides
new data on L2 gender use strategies with asymmetric gender systems,
formulating the L1 transfer continuum, which extends existing proposals to
include the degree of (a)symmetry between the L1 and the L2. This research
also connects theoretical proposals regarding gender agreement in
functional-lexical code-switches (specifically, switches within the Determiner
Phrase such as die(GER-F) mesa(SPA-F) or el(SPA-M) Tisch(GER-M)) to
bilinguals’ preferences in code-switching between two languages that display
formal gender. Taken together, all of these complementary perspectives
addressed in this dissertation offer a well-rounded perspective of grammatical
gender in asymmetric gender systems specifically, and contribute novel
evidence regarding the interactions between the L1 and the L2 in the bilingual
mental lexicon in general.




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