Gender and number agreement in the oral production of Arabic Heritage speakers

Abdulkafi Albirini, Elabbas Benmamoun, Brahim Chakrani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Heritage language acquisition has been characterized by various asymmetries, including the differential acquisition rates of various linguistic areas and the unbalanced acquisition of different categories within a single area. This paper examines Arabic heritage speakers' knowledge of subject-verb agreement versus noun-adjective agreement with the aim of contrasting their distributions and exploring areas of resilience and vulnerability within Arabic heritage speech and their theoretical implications. Two oral-production experiments were carried out, one involving two picture-description tasks, and another requiring an elicited narrative. The results of the study show that subject-verb agreement morphology is more maintained than noun-adjective morphology. Moreover, the unmarked singular masculine default is more robust than the other categories in both domains and is often over-generalized to other marked categories. The results thus confirm the existence of these asymmetries. We propose that these asymmetries may not be explained by a single factor, but by a complex set of morphological, syntactic, semantic, and frequency-related factors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Arabic
  • agreement morphology
  • heritage speakers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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