Date of Award

8-1-2013

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Department

Applied Linguistics

First Advisor

Baertsch, Karen

Abstract

This thesis uses an experimental approach to explore optimal gender assignment theory, an approach to gender assignment housed in Optimality Theory (Prince & Smolensky 1993/2004). Optimal gender assignment theory was proposed by Curt Rice (2006) and stipulates that grammatical gender is assigned based on a set of crucially non-ranked gender features constraints and markedness constraints. Thirty-seven participants who were bilingual in English and German received 40 sentences containing English loanwords with the definite article removed and asked to provide the appropriate gender marker and a lexical equivalency. The study found that the constraints employed and developed for optimal gender assignment theory are not applicable to English loanwords in German.

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