Date of Completion


Degree Type

Honors Thesis


Spanish (SPAN)

First Advisor

Mónica Cabrera


Grammatical gender, identified as “one of the most difficult structures that non-native speakers need to acquire” (Alamry & Sabourin, 2017) does not exist in English. L1 English speakers learning L2 Spanish must acquire this new grammatical feature. This thesis investigates this acquisition.

A literature review synthesizes the findings of studies on L2 acquisition of Spanish grammatical gender, and includes an overview of the structure and function of gender within both English and Spanish, as well as a variety of L2 acquisition process hypotheses. An analysis of four introductory Spanish textbooks is offered regarding their presentation of grammatical gender. The findings of the literature review and textbook analysis inform the elaboration of pedagogical recommendations.

Four current hypotheses regarding L2 acquisition of grammatical gender are explained: Full Transfer/Full Access; Failed Functional Features; Morphological Underspecification; and Missing Surface Inflection. The textbook analysis reveals differences between the presentation of noun endings for each gender, their reference to the English gender system, and the connection between gender and number. Notable similarities between the four textbooks are the lack of: noun ending frequency statistics, explicit distinctions made between grammatical and natural gender and between sexual and non-sexual nouns, and activities requiring gender agreement between adjectives and non-sexual nouns.

The pedagogical strategies that arise from this study are that instruction should focus on: the distinction between natural and grammatical gender, the most relevant endings for non-canonical nouns, the frequency of different types of nouns, and activities conducive to low communicative pressure.