The second language acquisition of grammatical gender and agreement

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

18 Scopus citations


This chapter starts with a descriptive account of grammatical gender in French, outlining its idiosyncrasies in Section 1. The theoretical account and learnability predictions for L2 French learners presented in Section 2 are couched in the minimalist framework in which is is assumed that grammatical gender is a lexical property of nouns, while number and person features are generally assumed to be a property of the determiner. The minimalist approach of parameterized gender features has clear learnability implications for L2 adult learners. Assuming that they have access to functional categories and their features, whether they are instantiated in their L1 or not, the empirical study presented in Section 5 tests three predictions: (a) Participants will perform more accurately on determiner/noun agreement than on noun/adjective agreement; (b) Participants will become more accurate with their increasing level of proficiency; (c) The higher the level of proficiency, the more likely will the participants be able to detect conflictual gender assignment. The results of a grammaticality judgment task and production task performed by English-speaking L2 French learners at three different levels of proficiency confirmed all three predictions, indicating that they have successfully reset the gender-marking parameter associated with Num, in that they clearly seem to have acquired the [±masc] gender feature in nominal phrases. The difficulties in consistently making N/Adj agreement are attributed to a lack of attention and motivation on the part of L2 learners for whom grammatical gender carries a low communicative load, is highly redundant, and must be learned from an ambiguous, complex input with numerous exceptions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationFrench Applied Linguistics
EditorsDalila Ayoun
PublisherJohn Benjamins Publishing Company
Number of pages41
ISBN (Electronic)9789027292889
StatePublished - 2007

Publication series

NameLanguage Learning and Language Teaching
ISSN (Print)1569-9471

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language


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