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International Review Of Applied Linguistics In Language Teaching


Previous research demonstrates that L2 learners are sensitive to morphophonological and semantic information regarding grammatical gender in European languages (e.g., Spinner & Juffs, 2008). In this study we examine the use of morphophonological and semantic information by two groups of English-speaking learners acquiring Swahili gender (noun class). The results of an oral agreement-marking task, a written gender assignment task, and interviews indicate that learners are sensitive to morphophonological information regarding gender in Swahili. The findings for semantic information are more complex; learners appear to be sensitive to animacy but not to other “minor” semantic information such as tree or active body part. We propose the Semantic Core Hypothesis, which suggests that core semantic principles such as biological sex, animacy and humanness may be more easily accessible to L2 learners than other semantic principles.


grammatical gender, Swahili, semantics, morphology


This work is freely available courtesy of De Gruyter.

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