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Gender Assignment Strategies Among Simultaneous Spanish/English Bilingual Children from Miami, Florida

Authors
  • Balam, Osmer1
  • Lakshmanan, Usha2
  • Parafita Couto, María del Carmen3
  • 1 The College of Wooster, USA , (United States)
  • 2 Southern Illinois University Carbondale, USA , (United States)
  • 3 Leiden University, Netherlands , (Netherlands)
Type
Published Article
Journal
Studies in Hispanic and Lusophone Linguistics
Publisher
De Gruyter
Publication Date
Sep 16, 2021
Volume
14
Issue
2
Pages
241–280
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1515/shll-2021-2045
Source
De Gruyter
Keywords
License
Green

Abstract

We examined gender assignment patterns in the speech of Spanish/English bilingual children, paying particular attention to the influence of three gender assignment strategies (i.e., analogical gender, masculine default gender, phonological gender) that have been proposed to constrain the gender assignment process in Spanish/English bilingual speech. Our analysis was based on monolingual Spanish nominals (n = 1774), which served as a comparative baseline, and Spanish/English mixed nominal constructions (n = 220) extracted from oral narratives produced by 40 child bilinguals of different grade levels (second graders vs. fifth graders) and instructional programs (English immersion vs. two-way bilingual) from Miami Dade, Florida. The narratives, available in the CHILDES database (MacWhinney, Brian. 2000. The CHILDES project: Tools for analyzing talk, 3rd edn. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates), were collected by Pearson, Barbara Z. 2002. Narrative competence among monolingual and bilingual school children in Miami. In D. Kimbrough Oller & Rebecca E. Eilers (eds.), Language and literacy in bilingual children, 135–174. Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters. Results revealed that in Spanish nominal constructions, children across both instructional programs and grade levels evinced native-like acquisition of grammatical gender. In mixed nominals, children overwhelmingly assigned the masculine gender to English nouns. Notably, irrespective of schooling background, simultaneous Spanish/English bilingual children used the masculine default gender strategy when assigning gender to English nouns with feminine translation equivalents. This suggests that from age seven, simultaneous Spanish/English child bilingual acquisition of grammatical gender is characterized by a predisposition towards the employment of the masculine default gender strategy in bilingual speech.

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