Gender Assignment in mixed Greek-English Determiner-Phrases: insights from late bilingualism
Eleni Goula
(Leiden University)
Saturday (April 22nd), 15:15-15:40
Lipsius 147

My study analyzes gender assignment in Greek-English mixed nominal constructions with nouns in English (a language that lacks gender) and determiners in Greek (a language that has a 3-way gender distinction).      

Previous studies suggest that in code-switched Determiner Phrases (DPs), determiners will surface from the highly grammaticalized language, e.g. a language that bears gender. Consequently, bilinguals who speak one gender-bearer and one ungendered language, will activate the language that spells out the gender in mixed Dps. Another study showed that early and late Spanish-English bilinguals differed in their gender assignment preferences in mixed DPs, with a Spanish determiner followed by an English noun. In fact, early bilinguals and L1 Spanish learners produced the gender provided by the Spanish translation equivalent of the English noun (analogical gender), while the L2 Spanish speakers (English from birth) preferred the use of the masculine determiner as the default.        

Given this background, when a Greek determiner is followed by a noun from another language, specifically an ungendered language like English, an interesting question is raised as to how the gender of the determiner will be assigned. How do late Greek-English bilinguals assign gender in mixed DPs, where the determiner is in Greek and the noun in English? Will they assign the analogical gender or the default one, which is the neuter in Greek?        Several factors may influence this assignment (analogical gender, default gender, phonological shape). Motivated by the previous findings, I am testing which factors determine the gender assignment in Greek-English DPs. Given that Greek, like Spanish, is a gender-based language, I expect that the analogical gender and the neuter default gender will play an important role in the gender assignment of the determiner.         

My study involves a multi-task approach: an elicitation task (director-matcher task), and (2) an alternative forced choice task. I have tested 25 L1 Greek speakers who have learnt English in a classroom-based environment after the age of six. All of them were tested both in Greece and in the Netherlands. So far, the majority of the participants assigned the neuter default gender to the Greek determiner.      

I think that this study is interesting, because it is concerned with another language apart from Spanish that can -at least minimally-contribute to the field of bilingualism and code-switching.