CORDIS
EU research results

CORDIS

English EN
Conflicting Grammars: Gender among bilinguals in Mesoamerica and the Caucasus

Conflicting Grammars: Gender among bilinguals in Mesoamerica and the Caucasus

Objective

Languages differ with respect to the expression of grammatical gender. English lacks a grammatical gender distinction, using the same determiner the for both the room and the bread. Spanish, by contrast, marks gender, as in feminine la habitación ‘the room’ vs masculine el pan ‘the bread’. Bilinguals may speak one language with grammatical gender and one language without. When they mix these languages in the same phrase, known as code-switching, the strategy used to assign gender varies (e.g. el cookie or la cookie are both possible in Spanish-English). Existing accounts predict the language of the determiner in mixed noun phrases, but struggle to predict its gender. This project investigates how speakers deal with this gender assignment, using data from two typologically understudied language pairs: Purepecha-Spanish (Mexico) and Batsbi-Georgian (Georgia). Purepecha and Georgian have no grammatical gender, while Spanish has two genders and Batsbi has five, a more extensive system than any systematically studied to date. I will investigate the role of existing predictors of gender assignment, such as phonology and natural gender, and will introduce new variables, e.g. animacy and semantic domain. On the basis of naturalistic corpus data, I will design and run production and comprehension tasks probing the gender assignment strategies employed, testing the two main explanatory frameworks (Matrix Language, and minimalist). As both situations display patterns of dominant majority-minority language interaction, I will also investigate the social dimensions of code-switching, including behaviour and attitudes, identifying commonalities. This usage-based approach is in its infancy for lesser-studied minority languages, but results in high-quality, comparable data. Such data is necessary to bridge the gap with well-studied language pairs, to broaden our understanding of the individual languages, and to inform current models of code-switching and bilingual grammar.

Coordinator

CENTRE NATIONAL DE LA RECHERCHE SCIENTIFIQUE CNRS

Address

Rue Michel Ange 3
75794 Paris

France

Activity type

Research Organisations

EU Contribution

€ 184 707,84

Project information

Grant agreement ID: 845430

Status

Ongoing project

  • Start date

    1 July 2019

  • End date

    30 June 2021

Funded under:

H2020-EU.1.3.2.

  • Overall budget:

    € 184 707,84

  • EU contribution

    € 184 707,84

Coordinated by:

CENTRE NATIONAL DE LA RECHERCHE SCIENTIFIQUE CNRS

France