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His father’s daughter and her mother’s son: Gender attraction errors in child English
Lucia Pozzan1,2, Dorota Ramlogan3, and Virginia Valian1,3
1CUNY
INTRODUCTION
• Adult L2 learners of English
have produce gender agreement
errors on possessive pronouns,
agreeing with the possessor
rather than the possessee
(Antón-Méndez (2010):
Bob1 sent a present to his1 sister
*Bob1 sent a present to her1 sister
RESEARCH QUESTIONS
1. Are gender agreement errors on
pronouns a learner
phenomenon  do children
learning English as their L1
produce gender agreement
errors?
2. Do errors occur equally in
match and mismatch
conditions?
3. Do errors occur equally with
masculine and feminine nouns?
4. Are errors due to non-target
(Romance-like) grammars or
are they speech errors?
Graduate Center, 2University of Pennsylvania, 3Hunter College – CUNY
RESULTS
MATERIALS & METHODS
Gender Errors:
• Participants:
• 14 Monolingual Englishlearning children
• Mean age: 4;4
Match vs. Mismatch
• Task: Elicited Production
• Materials: 12 prompts
• Match Condition (4 prompts):
Possessor – Possessee
1.
• Mismatch Condition (4 prompts):
Possessor – Possessee
2.
3.
•Mismatch Condition (4 prompts):
Possessor – Possessee
4.
Monolingual English-speaking children produce often incorrectly mark the
gender of a possessive pronoun.
• Gender errors are a learner phenomenon, rather than an L1-transfer error.
Gender errors are significantly more frequent when the possessor and the
possessee mismatch in gender  attraction error.
Gender errors occur to a similar extent in the two mismatch conditions:
• Masculine gender is not used as default
Initial evidence for speech error:
• Children self-corrected an incorrect response:
20% self-corrections after an incorrect response, 0% after a correct response.
• Same error has been documented in adult native speakers (5-6%) (Slevc et al.
2007)
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Female vs. Masculine
CONCLUSIONS & FURTHER
QUESTIONS
• Gender errors on possessive
pronouns are a learner
phenomenon.
• Incorrect grammars or speech
errors?
• If these errors are due to
incorrect grammatical
hypotheses, we expect them
to surface in comprehension
tasks.
• Native adult input is not
ambiguous, but possessive
pronouns are low in token
and type frequency, semantic
scope and perceptual salience
(Collins et al., 2009)
• If these are speech errors, at
what point of the production
process do they occur?
References
Antón-Méndez, I. (2010). Whose? L2-English speakers’ possessive
pronoun gender errors. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 1-14.
Collins, L., Trofimovich, P., White, J., Cardoso, W., & Horst, M. (2009).
Some Input on the Easy/Difficult Grammar Question: An Empirical
Study. Modern Language Journal, 93(3), 336-353.
Slevc, L. R., Wardlow, L., & Ferreira, V. S. (2007). Pronoun Production:
World or Word Knowledge? MIT Working papers in linguistics, (53), 191203.
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