Talk: How easy is it to acquire grammatical gender in L2 Spanish? An experimental study with Russian-speaking learners

Research on Second Language Acquisition (SLA) has reported that grammatical gender is a problematic feature for learners of foreign languages (FL), even for those with an advanced level of language proficiency (Grüter, Lew-Williams & Fernald, 2012; Martoccio, 2019; Montrul, Foote & Perpiñán, 2008; Quinn, 2018).
In this presentation, results of an experimental study on gender acquisition in L2 Spanish will be presented. 29 Russian natives with intermediate-advanced level (experimental group) and 28 native speakers of Spanish (control group) completed a gender assignment task with 64 inanimate real nouns (32 masculine and 32 feminine). Half of these items were transparent (ending in -a/-o), and another half were opaque nouns (ending in -e or consonant).
The results revealed that, even though the L2 group obtained high levels of accuracy in gender assignment task, there were significant differences in comparison with native speakers. This indicated that Russian natives with intermediate-advanced level have not completely acquired gender in L2 Spanish yet. Furthermore, the main effect of transparency was found. That is, L2 learners assigned gender to nouns with transparent endings more accurately. The major difficulty observed were opaque feminine nouns, especially those that ended in a consonant.

Grüter, T., Lew-Williams, C., & Fernald, A. (2012). Grammatical gender in L2: A production or a real-time processing problem? Second language Research 28, (2), 191-215.
Martoccio, A. (2019). Gender assignment strategies used by L1 and L2 speakers of Spanish. International Review of Applied Linguistics in Language Teaching.
Montrul, S., Foote, R., & Perpiñán, S. (2008). Gender agreement in adult second language learners and Spanish heritage speakers: The effects of age and context of acquisition. Language learning, 58, 503-553.
Quinn, A. (2018). Grammatical Gender Acquisition in L2 Spanish. Undergraduate Library Research Award. Available at


Day: 2020-11-20
Start time: 19:45
Duration: 00:30
Room: Agathe Lasch
Track: Neuro- and Psycholinguistics
Language: en



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