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Sensitivity to Gender Agreement in Second Language Hindi: A Processing Investigation
Claire Renaud and Lauren Covey
51-64 (complete paper or proceedings contents)


This study focuses on the debate on the accessibility of features in second-language (L2) acquisition. On the one hand, the Interpretability Hypothesis (e.g., Hawkins & Chan, 1997; Tsimpli & Dimitrakopoulou, 2007) puts forth that uninterpretable features absent from the L1 grammar are inaccessible in L2 acquisition. On the other hand, a group of researchers (e.g., Lardiere, 2009) proposes that learners are faced with the difficult task of (re)assembly of (uninterpretable) features and that relieving processing costs becomes crucial (e.g., McCarthy, 2008; Prévost & White, 2000). We examine the predictions of these hypotheses with the uninterpretable gender feature: A distinct processing profile is expected from domain-general symmetrical matching of features (see Interpretability Hypothesis) and from asymmetrical checking of an uninterpretable feature by an interpretable counterpart in a hierarchy of specifications (see Feature Reassembly Hypothesis). In a self-paced moving-window judgment task, low-intermediate English learners of Hindi and a native control group read fourteen experimental quadruples targeting overt gender agreement marking on adjectives in the singular and plural. Acceptance rates and reading times (RTs) on the noun and on the following segment indicate that the learners are sensitive to the gender feature. Not only are asymmetries between agreeing and disagreeing cases observed (as claimed by both proposals), but also asymmetries between cases of feature clash and of underspecification (cf. the Interpretability Hypothesis). Overall, the findings suggest that L1 and L2 grammars have the same etiology.

Published in

Selected Proceedings of the 2012 Second Language Research Forum: Building Bridges between Disciplines
edited by Ryan T. Miller, Katherine I. Martin, Chelsea M. Eddington, Ashlie Henery, Nausica Marcos Miguel, Alison M. Tseng, Alba Tuninetti, and Daniel Walter
Table of contents
Printed edition: $290.00