Acquisition of a transparent gender system: A comparison of Italian and Croatian

Abstract

This study compares the acquisition of the gender system and gender values in two languages with transparent gender: Italian and Croatian. The study focuses on the different degrees of transparency between the two languages by taking into account the extended nominal paradigm.

We have conducted an adjective elicitation task on a total of 60 monolingual Italian and Croatian children divided in two age groups (Italian=3;0 and 3;10, Croatian= 2;10 and 4;2).

The results have revealed that the Italian gender system is mastered already by the youngest child (age=2;6) and that the two gender values are acquired simultaneously; whereas Croatian children show a significant difference in the error ratio between the two age groups which indicates that the gender system is not yet acquired in the younger group (average age=3;0). Additionally, the results suggest that feminine is the first gender to be mastered in Croatian due to the regularity of its paradigm, and that neuter is the most problematic gender for the children, likely due to its lower frequency and syncretism with masculine in the case paradigm.