The acquisition of grammatical gender in Greek

P. P. Koromvokis, I. Kalaitzdis


Includes image: 'la temperanza woman holding a knife', 1938.



Greek is a language with rich gender system. Greek nouns are classified into three genders (masculine, feminine and neuter) and there are three possible clues (semantic, syntactic and morphological) that speakers can use to determine the gender of a noun and the agreement of other variable elements accompanying it. In this study 120 monolingual Greek-speaking children participated. They were tested in their ability to recognize the gender of a noun upon hearing it in a particular frame and, consequently, to establish the agreement of adjectives accompanying it. The aim of this study was to determine the relevant importance of intralinguistic (morphology and syntax) and extralinguistic (semantics) cues as evidence by the ability of Greek children to use these cues. The materials that were used in this experiment were non-words and coloured drawings of imaginary beings, animals or things. The experiment was a (3X2X2) factorial three way mixed analysis of variances. The findings indicate that Greek children pay far more attention to intralinguistic information than to extralinguistic, giving support to the theoretical view claiming that grammatical gender is based on the characteristics of the language and not on a more general understanding of the natural gender.

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