Electrophysiology finds no inherent delay for grammatical gender retrieval in non-native production


Late second language (L2) learners experience pervasive difficulty mastering grammatical gender, and a comprehensive account of this deficit has yet to emerge. We investigate a previously unexamined aspect of L2 gender use: the time course of lexical feature retrieval. Using event-related potentials (ERPs) with a covert production task, we examined whether L2 gender retrieval is delayed relative to phonology and to the time course of feature retrieval in native speakers for familiar nouns whose gender participants had strong knowledge of. Results find that L2 gender retrieval is not fundamentally delayed, and that L2 lexical feature retrieval may be more susceptible to top-down influences. These findings place important constraints on accounts of L2 acquisition and processing with respect to how lexical features are represented and retrieved. Our results further suggest that deficits in online L2 gender use may stem from post-retrieval processes and/or retrieval errors rather than inherent delays in gender retrieval.

In Press at Bilingualism: Language and Cognition