What's in a (role) name? Formal and conceptual aspects of comprehending personal nouns.

In: Journal of psycholinguistic research, Jg. 36 (2007) ; Nr. 6, S. 431-456
ISSN: 0090-6905
Zeitschriftenaufsatz / Fach: Psychologie
Two eye-tracking studies assessed effects of grammatical and conceptual
gender cues in generic role name processing in German. Participants read passages
about a social or occupational group introduced by way of a generic role name (e.g.,
Soldaten/soldiers, Künstler/artists). Later in the passage the gender of this group was
specified by the anaphoric expression diese Männer/these men or diese Frauen/these
women. Testing masculine generic role names of male, female or neutral conceptual
gender (Exp. 1) showed that a gender mismatch between the role name’s conceptual
gender and the anaphor significantly slowed reading immediately before and after the
anaphoric noun. A mismatch between the antecedent’s grammatical gender and the
anaphor slowed down the reading of the anaphoric noun itself. Testing grammatically
gender-unmarked role names (Exp. 2) revealed a general male bias in participants’
understanding, irrespective of grammatical or conceptual gender. The experiments
extend previous findings on gender effects to non-referential role names and generic
contexts. Theoretical aspects of gender and plural reference as well as gender information
in mental models are discussed.