2024_17_2_15 - XLinguae

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The accelerating effect of multilingualism on learning a new language grammar: the case of grammatical gender agreement

Kamil Długosz

DOI: 10.18355/XL.2024.17.02.15

Mounting evidence suggests that prior knowledge of multiple languages can enhance learning additional languages. Nevertheless, the effects of multilingualism on grammar learning among adults are yet to be unveiled. The present study investigates the effect of prior foreign language knowledge on the acquisition of pronominal gender agreement in a new language. Forty-three native speakers of Polish learning Swedish with and without prior knowledge of German completed a speeded acceptability judgment task that involved items with grammatical and ungrammatical pronominal gender agreement in Swedish. According to the results, learners who had learnt German achieved higher accuracy scores than learners who had not. The difference between them decreased with increasing Swedish proficiency. In addition, only learners who had learnt German judged ungrammatical items faster than grammatical items. Thus, the present study demonstrates that prior foreign language knowledge accelerates learning grammatical gender agreement and facilitates access to grammatical gender knowledge in a new language, thereby providing evidence for a multilingual advantage in learning grammar. Implications for language teaching in multilingual contexts are discussed.

Key words: grammatical gender agreement, possessive pronouns, additional language acquisition, multilingual advantage, Swedish

Pages: 216-230

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