Author Date

2021-03-19

Degree Name

BA

Department

Linguistics and English Language

College

Humanities

Defense Date

2021-03-11

Publication Date

2023-03-19

First Faculty Advisor

Dr. Jeffrey Parker

First Faculty Reader

Dr. Scott Alvord

Honors Coordinator

Dr. Rex Nielson

Keywords

Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, grammatical gender, Spanish, L2 acquisition, cognitive effects, LDS missionaries, monolingual English

Abstract

The current study aims to explore the cognitive effects of L2 Spanish acquisition and the role that spending time in the target language country has on L2 learners’ categorization of inanimate objects. Three groups of participants were analyzed: monolingual English speakers, L2 Spanish speakers that learned their Spanish while serving missions for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) abroad, and L2 Spanish speakers that learned their Spanish while serving LDS missions in the United States. Using a Qualtrics survey, participants were tasked with pairing a list of adjectives stereotypically associated with males or females (Williams & Bennett, 1975) to a list of 10 control nouns (nouns referring to males and females), 10 naturally occurring nouns with feminine Spanish translations, 10 naturally occurring nouns with masculine Spanish translations, 10 artificially occurring nouns with feminine Spanish translations, and 10 artificially occurring nouns with masculine Spanish translations (Kurinski & Sera, 2011). Chi-square tests of association were run to measure the likelihood of gender-congruence (a tendency to match the gender of the noun’s Spanish translation to adjectives most commonly associated with humans of the same biological sex) within each participant group. The results added to the conversation on the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, also known as linguistic relativity, which claims that the structure of language influences one’s perception of world (Kay & Kempton, 1984). Monolingual English speaker responses were statistically more likely to exhibit a gender-congruence effect than L2 Spanish speaker responses, especially when comparing the responses to controls nouns. Additionally, there was no statistical difference in gender-congruence between the responses of L2 Spanish speakers that served their LDS mission abroad and L2 Spanish speakers that served their LDS mission in the United States. The results imply a difference in cognitive processes between monolingual English speakers and L2 Spanish speakers, but in the opposite direction that previous studies have suggested. On the other hand, the data also implies that location of L2 acquisition does not affect speakers’ perception of inanimate objects due to grammatical gender.

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