LINGUIST List 11.2690

Tue Dec 12 2000

Sum: Grammatical Gender and Code-Switching

Editor for this issue: Marie Klopfenstein <>


  1. Florencia Franceschina, grammatical gender and code-switching

Message 1: grammatical gender and code-switching

Date: Fri, 08 Dec 2000 18:14:44 +0100
From: Florencia Franceschina <>
Subject: grammatical gender and code-switching

Dear list members

I would like to thank those who replied to my query 'Grammatical
Gender/Codeswitching' (posting 11.2373) of 2 November:

Michael BETSCH
Susan BURT
Beate LUO
Marjorie MEECHAN
Sandra PAOLI
Elizabeth WINKLER

I have copied the original query below, followed by the replies.


I would like to know if anybody knows of any studies of how native speakers
of Spanish (or any other language which has grammatical gender) use
grammatical gender in the context of CS as opposed to non-native speakers of
the matrix language.

I have observed in my data (informal conversations between Spanish native
and non-native speakers) that the Spanish native speakers tend to produce CS
sentences like the following:

(1) Estos shoes est´┐Żn nuevitos.
 These(masc) shoes are new(masc).

(2) Tuvimos una worksheet de deberes.
 We had a(fem) worksheet for homework.

In examples like the ones above, determiners and adjectives take the gender
agreement that would be triggered by the Spanish counterpart of the English
noun used. By contrast, I have not found evidence of this sort of agreement
between determiners/adjectives and the CS noun in L1 English speakers of

I would be grateful if somebody could point me in the direction of any
research done in this area.

REPLY 1 - Michael BETSCH
He said that "there are similar phenomena with borrowed words in German.
(German has a three-gender system where generally the gender can not be
determined by morphophonological properties of the noun). Examples: 'Metro'
(Underground in Paris resp. Moscow) is fem. In German - like the native
'Untergrundbahn', but masc. in French resp. neutral in Russian. I would
guess that the mechanism works only if the morphonological properties of the
borrowed noun do not determine a gender according to the rules of the
borrowing language (in Slavonic languages, there are clear rules for
determining the grammatical gender from morphonological properties: here
borrowed words generally get their gender simply according to these rules)."

REPLY 2 - Susan BURT
Susan pointed out that Janet FULLER of Southern Illinois University has done
some work on gender in German-English codeswitching. The following is the
one article that I have found:
. FULLER, J. and H. LEHNERT 2000: Noun phrase structure in German-English
codeswtching: variation in gender assignment and article use. International
Journal of Bilingualism 4, 3.

He suggested looking in the two 1999 special issues of the Journal of
Psycholinguistic Research about the processing and representation of
grammatical gender (edited by FREDERICI, GARRET and JACOBSEN). He also
suggested looking in the following article:
. DEWAELE, J.-M., & D. VERONIQUE 2000: Relating gender errors to
morphosyntactic and lexical systems in advanced French interlanguage. Studia
Linguistica 54, 2: 212-224.
REPLY 4 - Beate LUO
She said "I've noticed myself this problem. It as well exist without cs. I'm
a native speaker of German. We have three types of gender and very often
when I speak English, talking about animals, I use the pronouns 'he' or
'she' instead of 'it' depending of the gender this animal has in German."

REPLY 5 - Marjorie MEECHAN
She suggested three articles investigating the assignement of gender to
English loanwords:
. POPLACK, S. and D. SANKOFF 1984: Borrowing: The synchrony of integration.
Linguistics 22: 99-135.
. BUDZHAK-JONES, S. 1998: Against word-internal code-switching: Evidence
from Ukrainian-English bilingualism. International Journal of Bilingualism
2: 161-182.
. TURPIN, D. 1998: Le francais, c'est le last frontier: The status of
English-origin nouns in Acadian French. International Journal of
Bilingualism 2. 

REPLY 6 - Sandra PAOLI
She said that Antonina SCARNA has done some work on Italian-English
bilinguals, looking at the use of determiners and adjectives with borrowed
nouns, i.e., 'metti il newspaper qui' -put the newspaper here. Sandra said
that Antonina's study looked at whether her patients used the same gender
that the word would have had in Italian or if it followed phonological
I later got in touch with A. SCARNA and she told me that there is more
similar work for publication in the pipeline. Below are the details of her
PhD. thesis:
. SCARNA, A. 2000: Lexical processing in monolinguals and bilinguals. PhD.
thesis, University of York.

Mila said "I would like to share with you my observations on
Bulgarian-English code switching as Bulgarian experiences the same overt
gender/number agreement between all items within DP as Spanish does. I've
observed such agreement in CS, too. In addition to the examples that you
give in your query I have heard Bulgarians that use an English noun, agree
the adjective with it and in adition (especially with professions) put a
gender-marked inflection (which can also be the determiner as in Bulgarian
the determiner is a suffix) at the end of the noun itself:

1/ Tazi teacher-ka otiva njakade.
 This teacher-Fem.Sg. is.going somewhere.

2/ Lesson plan-at ne e gotov.
Lesson plan.the-Masc.Sg. not is ready.

3/ IST-to shte bade v Sofia.
IST.the-Neut.Sg. will be in Sofia."

REPLY 8 - Elizabeth WINKLER
She said "I have been collecting the same data for about 6 years from 2
sources: the on-line ramblings of a caving/adventure club in Monterrey,
Mexico and from personal conversation with friends from there. I have come
up with the same results. Very interesting isn't it? Here's an utterance
with 2 examples: 'Tuvimos que salir del closet un ratito para respirar y
leer el email' (We had to come out of the(masc.) closet for a little while
to breathe and read the(masc.) email)."

Finally, I have recently found a book with plenty of examples from different
languages and discussion on how gender interacts with code-switching:
. MacSWAN, J. 1999: A minimalist approach to intrasentential code-switching.
London: Garland.

Florencia Franceschina
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