Morphological structure mediates the notional meaning of gender marking: Evidence from the gender-congruency effect in hebrew speech production

Avital Deutsch, Maya Dank

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

This study investigated the gender-congruency effect of animate nouns in Hebrew. The Picture–Word Interference paradigm was used to manipulate gender congruency between target pictures and spoken distractors. Naming latency revealed an inhibitory gender-congruency effect, as naming the pictures took longer in the presence of a gender-congruent distractor than with a distractor from a different gender category. The inhibitory effect was demonstrated for feminine (morphologically marked) nouns, across two stimulus-onset asynchronies (SOAs) (Experiments 1a and 1b), and masculine (morphologically unmarked) nouns (Experiment 2). The same pattern was observed when participants had to produce bare nouns (Experiment 1) or gender-marked noun phrases (Experiment 3). The inhibitory pattern of the effect resembles previous findings of bare nouns in a subset of Romance languages, including Italian and Spanish. These findings add to previous research which investigated the gender-congruency effect of inanimate nouns, where no effect of gender-congruent words was found. The results are discussed in relation to the null effect previously found for inanimate nouns. The comparison of the present and previous studies is motivated by a common linguistic distinction between animate and inanimate nouns in Hebrew, which ascribes grammatical gender specifications to derivational structures (for inanimate nouns) versus inflectional structures (for animate nouns). Given the difference in the notional meaning of gender specification for animate and inanimate nouns, the case of Hebrew exemplifies how language-specific characteristics, such as rich morphological structures, can be used by the linguistic system to express conceptual distinctions at the form-word level.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)389-402
Number of pages14
JournalQuarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology
Volume72
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2019

Keywords

  • Gender effect in Hebrew
  • Gender effect in production
  • Gender-congruency effect
  • Picture
  • Word interference

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Physiology (medical)
  • Physiology
  • General Psychology

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