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Academic Paper

Title: Gender and number agreement in the oral production of Arabic Heritage speakers
Author: Abdulkafi Albirini
Author: Abbas Benmamoun
Email: click here TO access email
Institution: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Author: Brahim Chakrani
Institution: Michigan State University
Linguistic Field: Language Acquisition; Morphology
Subject Language: Arabic, Standard
Abstract: Heritage language acquisition has been characterized by various asymmetries, including the differential acquisition rates of various linguistic areas and the unbalanced acquisition of different categories within a single area. This paper examines Arabic heritage speakers’ knowledge of subject–verb agreement versus noun–adjective agreement with the aim of contrasting their distributions and exploring areas of resilience and vulnerability within Arabic heritage speech and their theoretical implications. Two oral-production experiments were carried out, one involving two picture-description tasks, and another requiring an elicited narrative. The results of the study show that subject–verb agreement morphology is more maintained than noun–adjective morphology. Moreover, the unmarked singular masculine default is more robust than the other categories in both domains and is often over-generalized to other marked categories. The results thus confirm the existence of these asymmetries. We propose that these asymmetries may not be explained by a single factor, but by a complex set of morphological, syntactic, semantic, and frequency-related factors.


This article appears IN Bilingualism: Language and Cognition Vol. 16, Issue 1, which you can READ on Cambridge's site or on LINGUIST .

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