Gender processing and representation in the mental lexicon of bilinguals

Gender processing in the L2 mental lexicon has caused much debate in the latest research. While researchers mostly agree that gender markers in pre-position are used by native speakers in real-time comprehension as predictive cues for the following noun, there is still no agreement on whether L2 speakers process gender information. Another issue concerns how gender is represented in the L2 mental lexicon.

L1 Russian / L2 German

Oleksandra Gubina

This study investigates gender processing and representation in the mental lexicon of bilinguals. We aim at answering two questions: Do adult Russian L2-speakers of German use gender information in gender-marked determiners as predictive cues for following nouns in real-time comprehension in their L2? If they do, is the L1 gender information co-activated? To answer these questions, fifteen advanced to near-native adult first language (L1) Russian speakers of L2 German as well as fifteen native controls were tested in a visual world study. In our experiment, we measured attention to target objects under 2 conditions: In the critical condition, the gender of a target noun in German (L2) coincided with the gender of a competitor in Russian (L2), whereas in the control, no L1 competitor was present. Findings show that 1) L1 Russian speakers of L2 German use gender information encoded in the determiner and 2) the L1 gender information are co-activated in the critical condition.

L1 Italian / L2 German

Sara Alotto

The second study in this project uses an adaption of the experimental design used in Gubina & Gerwien (2017). The main goal is to try to replicate the results obtained for Russian-German bilinguals.

Project publications

  • Gender representation and processing in Russian-German bilinguals
  • Oleksandra Gubina & Johannes Gerwien (2017). Gender representation and processing in Russian-German bilinguals, poster presentation at the 23rd AMLaP conference, Lancaster, UK.

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