Effects of Grammatical Gender on Object Description

Abstract

Can grammatical gender influence how people conceptualize the referents of nouns? Using an implicit measure, we investigated whether such an effect could be found in a task where neither grammatical nor biological gender is highlighted. In the current study, conducted in English, speakers of French, German and Romanian with knowledge of English were asked to generate adjectives they associate with referents of nouns. Afterwards, the gender valence of the adjectives was measured. The results showed that participants generated more feminine adjectives for nouns with majority feminine translations compared to nouns with majority masculine translations. We found a stronger effect of grammatical gender for some semantic categories than for others. Significant effects of grammatical gender were present starting with the 2nd adjective generated by participants (effects were stronger for adjectives generated 2nd and 3rd by participants, as opposed to the 1st adjective).


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