Gender strategies in the perception and production of mixed nominal constructions by New Mexico Spanish-English bilinguals



This study investigated gender assignment strategies in mixed noun phrases containing a Spanish determiner and an English noun among Spanish-English bilinguals (n = 38) in New Mexico (U.S.A.). Previous research has reported different gender assignment strategies based on a preference for a default determiner, the gender of the translation equivalent, or shape-based cues from the other language. The present study consisted of (i) a language background questionnaire, (ii) a two-alternative forced-choice judgment task, and (iii) two director-matcher tasks: a forced-switch task and a spontaneous card game. The results of the judgment task indicate that participants preferred the gender of the translation equivalent, i.e., la window ‘the.FEM window’ following the gender of the Spanish noun la ventana. Results from the production tasks also show that participants produced both gender congruent and incongruent mixed NPs, with Late English bilinguals producing more congruent mixed NPs, similar to the translation equivalent strategy found in the judgment task. These findings differ from those found in naturalistic speech in other New Mexican communities, which display a preference for a masculine default strategy. We suggest that the nature of participants’ bilingual profile and the community norms (urban setting, heterogeneous and diverse language contact profiles) may play a key role in the observed code-switching patterns in mixed noun phrases.


code-switching, Spanish-English bilinguals, mixed NPs, gender assignment, New Mexico


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