Real-time processing of gender-marked articles by native and non-native Spanish speakers

Casey Lew-Williams, Anne Fernald

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

166 Scopus citations


Three experiments using online-processing measures explored whether native and non-native Spanish-speaking adults use gender-marked articles to identify referents of target nouns more rapidly, as shown previously with 3-year-old children learning Spanish as L1 (Lew-Williams & Fernald, 2007). In Experiment 1, participants viewed familiar objects with names of either the same or different grammatical gender while listening to Spanish sentences referring to one object. L1 adults, like L1 children, oriented to the target more rapidly on different-gender trials, when the article was informative about noun identity; however, L2 adults did not. Experiments 2 and 3 controlled for frequency of exposure to article-noun pairs by using novel nouns. L2 adults could not exploit gender information when different article-noun pairs were used in teaching and testing. Experience-related factors may influence how L1 adults and children and L2 adults-who learned Spanish at different ages and in different settings-use grammatical gender in real-time processing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)447-464
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Memory and Language
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 2010
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


  • Eye movements
  • Grammatical gender
  • Language development
  • Language processing
  • Second language
  • Statistical learning


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