Rachel Klassen (UiT The Arctic University of Norway)

Tuesday 10th October 2017: At 13.00, in Keir Hardie 330

Grammatical Gender in the bilingual lexicon: Consequences of asymmetries between the L1 and the L2

A significant body of psycholinguistic research in bilingual lexical access has shown that speakers of two languages with grammatical gender have a representation of gender that is shared between the L1 and the L2 (e.g. Salamoura & Williams, 2007, Bordag & Pechmann, 2007, Paolieri et al., 2010). Recent work has extended these findings to speakers of languages with asymmetric gender systems such as Spanish and German, which have two gender values and three gender values respectively. Similar to bilingual speakers of languages with symmetric gender systems, an L1-L2 shared representation has been posited for asymmetric gender systems (Lemhöfer, et al, 2008), and the asymmetric gender value has been found to interfere significantly less in language production than masculine/feminine mismatches between the L1 and the L2 (Klassen, 2016a).

Complementary findings come from research on language acquisition, which has shown that this representation in the bilingual lexicon results in pervasive effects of the L1 in L2 gender assignment and agreement. L1 speakers of languages with grammatical gender tend to transfer L1 gender information into the L2 (e.g. Sabourin et al., 2006) while L1 speakers of languages without grammatical gender (such as English) opt for a masculine-as-default strategy (e.g. Franceschina, 2001). However, this does not seem to hold for speakers of languages with asymmetric gender systems who have demonstrated a stronger tendency towards a default strategy than L1 transfer (Klassen, 2016b).

In this talk I explore the effect of asymmetries between the L1 and L2 grammatical gender systems on lexical access and L2 acquisition. While research in multiple fields of linguistics has tended to shy away from a detailed analysis of such feature asymmetries, I highlight the important role of these analyses in achieving a comprehensive proposal of grammatical gender in the bilingual lexicon.

Lars Marstaller

Tuesday 21st November 2017: At 13.00, in Keir Hardie 330

Word and gesture production in young and older adults

Gesture and language play important roles in cognitive development and we use language and gesture for communication and cognition throughout life. While the relation between language and gesture has been investigated in children and young adults, it is yet unclear whether and how the cognitive and neural processes that support gesture change with old age. I will present behavioural and neuroimaging results from our recent study, which compared verb and pantomime production in young and healthy older adults.


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