Facilitative Online Processing of Gender in Swedish as a Second Language

University essay from Stockholms universitet/Centrum för tvåspråkighetsforskning

Author: Rebecca Borg; [2021]

Keywords: ;

Abstract: Similar to other Indo-European languages, Swedish makes use of grammatical gender and distinguishes between two noun categories: common and neuter nouns. This study aimed to examine whether L1 speakers whose L2 lacks gender are capable of utilizing gender agreement markers in a timed picture naming task in Swedish. The participants consisted of 24 L1 speakers of Finnish, and they were tested in a picture naming task, a gender assignment task, and a lexical proficiency test. The study firstly focused on whether the learners can obtain a novel feature in their L2 and if the gender informative agreement markers are used to facilitate naming times. Then, it was examined if this process differs as a function of the noun’s markedness status (common nouns; default, neuter nouns; marked), and the number of informative cues (one or two).  In the gender assignment task, participants showed greater assignment accuracy on common nouns. In the picture naming task, informativeness or the level of informativeness did not affect naming times. The naming accuracy for neuter nouns was lower than for common nouns and the naming times for neuter nouns were slower. These effects, however only reached significance in the comparisons between conditions providing two vs. zero gender cues. The consistency in grammatically correct gender assignment facilitated naming times significantly for all conditions. Since this study did not find any significant effect of informativeness, the facilitation effects found occurred even in the absence of a gender cue, suggesting that the connections between nouns and gender markers that the learners have created are not strong enough to become activated before the presentation of the actual noun.  Keywords: Facilitation, Picture Naming, Gender, Markedness, Second Language Acquisition.

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