This study investigates whether perceived gender connotations influence grammatical gender assignment in L2 Spanish by L1 English learners in first-year university courses. In task one, subjects (n=107) rated a list of English words to determine those with the strongest masculine and feminine associations. In task two, different subjects (n=105) assigned either masculine or feminine grammatical gender to the Spanish version of these and other unfamiliar words, accompanied by English translations. Quantitative analysis revealed a strong positive correlation between gender association (task one) and grammatical gender assignment (task two). Qualitative analysis confirmed this finding, as a majority of learners reported taking into account a word's meaning when guessing its grammatical gender. These results confirm the importance of semantic information to L1 English learners when assigning grammatical gender in L2 Spanish. Furthermore, they corroborate previous findings of a cognitive link between grammatical gender and gender perceptions, and indicate that the two may mutually influence each other.
Selected Proceedings of the 7th Conference on the Acquisition of Spanish and Portuguese as First and Second Languages
edited by Carol A. Klee and Timothy L. Face
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