Bilingualism: Language and Cognition

Gender assignment and gender agreement in advanced French interlanguage: a cross-sectional study

Jean-Marc Dewaele a1c1 and Daniel Véronique a2
a1 Department of French, Birkbeck College, University of London
a2 UFR Didactique du Français langue étrangère, Sorbonne Nouvelle


An analysis of 519 gender errors (out of 9,378 modifiers) in the advanced French interlanguage of 27 Dutch L1 speakers confirms earlier findings that gender assignment and/or agreement remain problematic for learners at all levels. A hypothesis derived from Pienemann's Processability Theory (1998a) that accuracy rates would be higher for gender agreement in structures involving no exchange of grammatical information between constituents was not confirmed. The analysis of interindividual and intra-individual variation in gender accuracy rates revealed effects from avoidance and generalisation strategies, from linguistic variables, sociobiographical variables and psycholinguistic variables. We argue that gender errors can originate at the lemma level, at the gender node level, or at the lexeme level. Different psycholinguistic scenarios are presented to account for intra-individual variation in gender assignment and agreement.

c1 Address for correspondence: Jean-Marc Dewaele, Department of French, School of Languages, Linguistics and Culture, Birkbeck College, University of London, 43 Gordon Square, London WC1H 0PD, UK. E-mail: