Gender Assignment in mixed Greek-English Determiner Phrases: insights from late bilingualism

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Gender Assignment in mixed Greek-English Determiner Phrases: insights from late bilingualism

Type: Master thesis
Title: Gender Assignment in mixed Greek-English Determiner Phrases: insights from late bilingualism
Author: Goula, Eleni
Issue Date: 2017-08-31
Keywords: Code-Switching, Determiner Phrases, Elicitation Task, Alternative Forced Choice Task, Thurstone's Law of Comparative Judgment, Default Gender, Translation Equivalence
Abstract: The present study explores gender assignment strategies in mixed Greek-English determiner phrases, where the determiner comes from Greek, a language that bears grammatical gender and exhibits a three-way gender system (masculine, feminine and neuter) and the noun from English, a genderless language. We test late Greek-English bilinguals in both a production and a comprehension task. Previous studies on Spanish-English (Liceras, Fernández Fuertes, Susana Perales, Pérez-Tattam & Todd Spradlin 2008, Liceras, Fernández Fuertes & Klassen 2016) have shown that the analogical criterion (the translation equivalence) and the default gender play an essential role in gender assignment. The default is the gender that is the least marked and the most frequent in everyday speech (Poplack, Pousada & Sankoff 1982). In Greek, the neuter is the default gender since it has unmarked properties and it is encountered more often than the masculine and feminine gender (Tsimpli & Hulk 2013, Kavoukopoulos 1996, Stephany & Christofidou 2008). I designed a multitask study comprising (1) an elicitation task (director-matcher task), and (2) an alternative forced choice task. For the elicitation task, I tested 29 Greek people living both in Greece and in the Netherlands and having learned English in a classroom-based environment. The results show that the majority of the participants assign the default gender, which is the neuter in Greek when they are forced to produce mixed sentences indicating that they neutralize English words when they produce mixed Greek-English nominal constructions. In the alternative forced choice task, which is a comprehension task, the same participants of the production task as well as 11 Greek people living in the U.S.A. and in the U.K. took part. Those people living in English speaking countries were chosen to detect differences and similarities with those living in Greece and in the Netherlands. However, in the production task, it was not easy to gather data from people abroad and as a result, comparison and contrast were not implemented. They were divided into two groups; Group 1 consists of the participants of the production task and Group 2 includes Greek people living in English-speaking countries. Both groups behaved similarly choosing the translation equivalence in the mixed nominal constructions and the default gender in the pairs of sentences with the default and an incongruent gender. To sum up, both tasks produced different results; the production task reveals a preference for the default gender while in the comprehension task, participants pay more attention to translation equivalence indicating task effects on the participants. Production tasks are mostly spontaneous and can be seen as natural speech where participants do not process language as they do in comprehension tasks resulting in different outcomes. The combination of both tasks emphasizes the importance of gathering data from both naturalistic and experimental tasks.
Supervisor: Parafita Couto, Maria Carmen
Faculty: Faculty of Humanities
Department: Linguistics (Master)
Specialisation: MA English Language Linguistics
ECTS Credits: 20

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