*Applied Linguistics* The Representation and Processing of Grammatical Gender in Welsh-English Adult Bilinguals

Grammatical gender in Welsh is a persistent area of difficulty in child bilingual acquisition but not in adult control data (e.g., Binks & Thomas, 2019; Sharp, 2012). Gender has been investigated through its use in combination with the complex morphophonological mutation system, e.g., the determiner ‘y’ triggering soft mutation on F nouns, cath > y gath (the cat) but not on M nouns, ci > y ci (the dog). This study extends these findings to disambiguate the representation and processing of Welsh gender, establishing whether gender is as robust when encoded through or independent of mutations.

The research questions are:
1. Do Welsh-English adult bilinguals make use of grammatical gender in production?
2. What affect does the mutation system have on the processing of gender?

In experiment one, 40 self-reported Welsh-English bilingual adults (19 females; age: 19-64) completed an elicited imitation task, containing four contexts to disentangle gender from mutations. A repeated measures ANOVA model reached significance (p = <.001), showing that participants performed best when gender was independent of mutations (M=94%, SD=8.1%), next best when mutation was separate from gender (M=91%, SD=6.5%), then, when gender was encoded through mutations in local (M=76%, SD=20.7%) and distance contexts (M=82%, SD=13.8%). The MSIH (Prévost & White, 2000) may explain the results, holding that the speakers have underlying syntactic representations of gender but have trouble spelling out gender-marked forms when involved with the intricate mutation system during production.

Extending these findings to processing, a follow-up experiment, including a SPR task, collected data from 21/40 bilinguals. The results showed a main effect of grammaticality (p = 0.008), showing sensitivity to gender agreement violations when gender was encoded locally through mutations (p = 0.044) and when gender was marked via the determiner ‘y’ (p = 0.047). The results and implications for Welsh in Wales will be discussed.

Tesni Galvin is a final year ESRC PhD student in the Department of Applied Linguistics at Swansea University. Her research interests mainly lie in grammatical gender, bilingualism and individual differences. She is particularly keen to understand how Welsh-English bilingual adults produce, comprehend and process grammatical gender in Welsh, by empirically testing theoretically motivated research questions using psycholinguistic techniques. She also considers their implications in light of the ‘Cymraeg: 2050’ Welsh Government target.

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