Effects of Morphosyntactic Gender Features in Bilingual Language Processing


Journal: Cognitive Science
Volume: 28
Pages: 559--588

Scheutz, Matthias and Eberhard, Kathleen

A central issue in bilingual research concerns the extent to which linguistic representations in the two languages are processed independently of each other. This paper reports the results of an empirical study and a model stimulation, which provide evidence for the interactive view, which holds that processing is not independent. Specifically, a reading experiment examined whether morpho-syntactic features associated with lexical representations in a bilinguals’ native language, in this case the masculine gender feature associated with the er ending of agentive nouns in German, are automatically activated by the processing of morphologically related representations in their second language, in this case English agentive nouns that end in er. Experimental findings suggest that the German–English bilinguals have a bias to interpret the referents of such nouns as male relative to English monolinguals. Subsequent computational simulation studies with an interactive activation network confirmed that this effect is due to the influence of the morphosyntactic er representation in the bilingual models that is absent in the monolingual models. The results provide evidence for an interactive view of bilingual memory and processing for language learners of age 8 and above.

  title={Effects of Morphosyntactic Gender Features in Bilingual Language Processing},
  author={Scheutz, Matthias and Eberhard, Kathleen},
  journal={Cognitive Science},