How formal versus semantic gender influences the interpretation of person denotations
Two studies assessed how gender-marked person denotations in German are interpreted in contrast to their unmarked counterparts in English. Participants read sentences about national groups denoted by nouns of masculine gender in German (Experiment 1) and by gender-unmarked nouns in English (Experiment 2). These statements were followed by a sentence that contained a reference to the subject of the first sentence and expressed either stereotypically feminine, stereotypically masculine, or gender-neutral content. Reading times for the second sentences indicate the ease of reference resolution which depends on the fit between the first sentence's subject and the gender relatedness of the second sentence. Results show that grammatical gender in German slowed down the reading of information that was mismatched as to gender. No effect occurred in the English study. Results are discussed in terms of the theoretical framework of scenario mapping and focus
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