•  
  •  
 
Western Papers in Linguistics / Cahiers linguistiques de Western

Abstract

This study aims to deepen our understanding of the expression of gender in heritage speakers of Arabic by distinguishing gender assignment from gender agreement with lexical borrowings. Studies on the assignment of gender to lexical borrowings (Mustafawi, 2002; Moshref, 2010; AL-Saidat, 2011) in monolingual Arabic speakers have shown that speakers rely on (morpho)-phonological endings. That is, lexical items ending in [-a] are to be assigned the feminine gender, while lexical borrowings that lack the [-a] ending are assigned the masculine gender. Here, we investigate gender assignment to lexical borrowings by Arabic heritage speakers to find out whether this group assigns gender using the mechanisms used by monolingually raised speakers, and to detect any patterns that heritage speakers follow when assigning gender to loanwords. The instrument we used consisted of a linguistic background questionnaire, an oral production task, a grammaticality judgment task, a gender assignment task, and a translation task. Results from 23 participants (15 heritage speakers) suggest a strong tendency by heritage speakers towards assigning loanwords to the masculine gender, especially in the absence of the [-a] ending, which supports the hypothesis that regards the masculine gender as the unmarked or the default gender (Greenberg, 1966; Albirini, Benmamoun & Saadah, 2011; Albirini, Benmamoun & Chakrani, 2013). The findings also suggest that heritage speakers’ sensitivity to morphophonological cues may be susceptible to the type of task.

 

To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.