Gender Grammaticality and Proficiency in French Second Language Learners

Bilingualism and second language learning have become topics of interest across the literature, particularly focusing on if proficiency of a second language is based on one’s age of acquisition. Acquiring a first language (L1) is said to be universal, but learning a second language (L2) is not universal (Hoff, 2009). It is quite remarkable that children can become fluent in both languages and have the ability to separate not only vocabulary, but also grammatical rules that may differ across the languages. Age is an important factor that often helps determine one’s success of learning or becoming proficient in a second language (Johnson & Newport, 1991). Numerous studies have shown that individuals who acquire a second language earlier in life tend to achieve higher proficiency in that language compared to those who acquire it later in life (Pakulak & Neville, 2011). Additional studies have shown that there are certain aspects of language that are more difficult or more negatively affected by a later age of acquisition (Pakulak & Neville, 2011; Weber-Fox & Neville, 1996). Although numerous studies have investigated areas of bilingualism and second language acquisition, there is a lack of research investigating gender agreement amongst second language learners (Pakulak & Neville, 2011). The proposed study will look at individuals whose first language (L1) does not have a grammatical gender system but their second language (L2) does. Through the event-related potential (ERP) study we will aim to determine whether processing of gender grammaticality is affected by one’s proficiency.
To begin, what is a grammatical gender system? According to Comrie (1999) a grammatical gender system is a class to which a noun is assigned...

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Weber-Fox, C., & Neville, H. J. (1996). Maturational constraints on functional specializations for language processing: ERP and behavioural evidence in bilingual speakers. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 8(3), 231-256.
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