Version 22-03-8

Vortrag: Gender systems as a cause of interference in second-language processing

My project aims at investigating whether Germans are more likely to perceive English role nouns ending in -er/-or as referring to males than native speakers of English due to transfer effects caused by the grammatical gender system in German (Hellinger & Bußmann, 2003), which English lacks. While professions which end in -er/-or identify a person as male in German (e.g. der Gärtner – ‘the [male] gardener’), they are not marked for gender in English, but might still be perceived as such by L1 German speakers. Transfer effects would be in line with models of bilingual processing which allow for interactions between the two systems, e.g. MacWhinney’s competition model (2005) or assume one system, e.g. Hudson’s word grammar (2008).
I plan on using a self-paced reading and/or eye-tracking paradigm. The stimuli will introduce occupational nouns (from Misersky et al., 2014) which vary in their stereotypical association (with males or females) between conditions and then are referred back to in a subsequent sentence with either ‘men’ or ‘women’ – for example:
“During the last month, the stockbrokers/hairdressers tried to get the business going. Recently, it had gotten a bad reputation. But two of these men/women had a brilliant idea that would turn the ship around.”
Preliminary results show that -er may slightly, but -or more considerably, slow down processing for German speakers when used with ‘women’. However, it also became evident that this design makes fairly obvious what is being investigated, thus potentially changing participants’ behaviours. Currently, I am considering ways to mediate this, including an increased number of distractors and less overt ways to introduce a ‘clash’ between a role noun and an overtly gendered element, but this remains an open issue.
Beyond that, individual differences should be considered. Relevant measures include processing styles, morphological awareness, cognitive control, and language as well as attitudes. However, it is unclear how to best operationalise these constructs.
Furthermore, characteristics of morphemes have been found to influence processing (Sánchez-Gutiérrez, Mailhot, Deacon, & Wilson, 2018). These measures should ideally be balanced across stimuli sets, but how can this be achieved?


Hellinger, M., & Bußmann, H. (Eds.) (2003). Impact: Studies in language and society. Gender across languages: Volume III. Amsterdam: Benjamins.
Hudson, R. (2008). Word Grammar, Cognitive Linguistics, and second language learning and teaching. In P. Robinson (Ed.), Handbook of cognitive linguistics and second language acquisition (1st ed., 89-113). New York: Routledge.
MacWhinney, B. (2005). A unified model of language acquisition. In J. F. Kroll & A. M. B. d. Groot (Eds.), Handbook of bilingualism: Psycholinguistic approaches (pp. 49–67). Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press.
Misersky, J., Gygax, P. M., Canal, P., Gabriel, U., Garnham, A., Braun, F., . . . Sczesny, S. (2014). Norms on the gender perception of role nouns in Czech, English, French, German, Italian, Norwegian, and Slovak. Behavior Research Methods, 46(3), 841–871.
Sánchez-Gutiérrez, C. H., Mailhot, H., Deacon, S. H., & Wilson, M. A. (2018). Morpholex: A derivational morphological database for 70,000 English words. Behavior Research Methods, 50(4), 1568–1580.


Tag: 25.03.2022
Anfangszeit: 11:05
Dauer: 00:30
Raum: Celan
Track: Neuro-Psycholinguistik
Sprache: en



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