Interlanguage: Activity 3

Gender assignment and gender agreement

Assigning gender to nouns (is it feminine or masculine?), and gender agreement between the noun and its modifiers (is it la agua or el agua?) is often thought to be a common source for error for English-speaking learners of Spanish.

Look at Henry’s gender assignment and agreement in the following excerpt, and then answer the questions below the table.

Task Line #  
Retell 3




H: OK, uh, hay una fiesta, en este día, con una familia con una madre y una niña. Y
Uh antes del de la fiesta, la niña como un parte de la pastel, y la madre uh cuando la
madre fui al la fui a la pastel, la niña dijo que fue el gato que como un parte de la
pastel. No, y no fue mí porque (I dunno), fue el gato. Y ...uh, la madre está muy, uh,
H: muy…<whispers> uh, er…
I: enojada?
H: Enojada, sí, la madre está muy enojada con la niña, sí. Gracias.
Retell 31



H: Y ahora la madre regresa a, el apartamen- el apartamento y uh, está muy
enojado con su niño porque es la secunda vez en la día con una tiempo que ella esta-
er estab- er estuvo muy mal, y uh, la policía está aquí también el gato, mi favorito
miembro del la historia.

What are Henry’s gender assignment and agreement patterns?  Consider his gender agreement patterns with both regular and irregular nouns. Comment specifically on his gender agreement with the irregular noun ‘día’.

When you have finished typing your answer, click to compare your response with the Learner Language staff response.

For the most part, Henry appears to be using correct  gender agreement for regular nouns ending in -a or -o, as seen in  “una familia,” “una niña” (line 3), and “el gato” (line 5). However, he sometimes errs in gender agreement with regular nouns, as in “una tiempo” (line 32) and “la madre...está muy enojado” (lines 31-32).

He correctly produces  some nouns with irregular gender agreement, as in, “este día” (line 3), or “la secunda (sic) vez”. However, here again he also shows some inconsistency: see “la día” in line 32, or other irregular nouns: “un parte” (line 4), “la pastel” (line 5). This suggests these systems of agreement are not quite stabilized as patterns in Henry’s interlanguage. “El día” in particular is a frequently-used irregular noun; it’s possible that when Henry is monitoring his speech, he can produce “el día” correctly, but in rapid or distracted speech he reverts to the older form, “la día”. (Selinker called this “backsliding” to an earlier “fossilized” form.)


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