Adult learners of a gendered second language (L2) such as Spanish demonstrate a persistent difficulty acquiring this linguistic feature and mastering concord for grammatical gender and number (e.g., on adjectives). This reduced sensitivity to morphosyntactic information has been associated with several factors, including age of acquisition, language proficiency, similarity of linguistic structures in the L1 and the L2, reliance on semantic rather than morphophonological and syntactic cues, and limitations of cognitive resources such as working memory. Online studies examining these issues with noun-adjective agreement are scarce. The present study examines the role of age of acquisition (whether late bilinguals can show native-like processing patterns); level of proficiency (whether bilinguals with more L2 experience behave qualitatively more like native speakers than those with less L2 exposure); and working memory (whether higher span bilinguals are more sensitive to agreement violations than lower span). Our working memory (WM) experiment also reveals whether gender disagreement consumes more attentional resources than number disagreement for late bilinguals compared to monolinguals. It used a Moving Window format to measure reading times (RTs) of Spanish monolinguals compared to two proficiency levels of adult Anglophone (ungendered language) learners of L2 Spanish reading sentences with noun-adjective gender and number agreement/disagreement. Beginners are insensitive to gender and number concord/discord distinctions, while intermediates, as monolinguals, demonstrate sensitivity to number and gender concord and discord.
Selected Proceedings of the 13th Hispanic Linguistics Symposium
edited by Luis A. Ortiz-López
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