Effects of grammatical gender on gender inferences: evidence from French hybrid nouns
Benjamin Storme, Laura Delaloye-Saillen
December 2022

A growing body of research shows that readers/listeners are biased by the grammatical gender of a noun when making inferences about the gender of its referent. This result is central in debates about gender-fair language but has mostly been established using masculine generics. This paper presents two preregistered studies on French that aim to replicate this result but using a lesser-studied type of nouns: generic hybrid nouns. These nouns can refer to both male and female individuals but are either masculine or feminine, depending on the noun (e.g. un talent ‘a talent’ and une vedette ‘a star’). The availability of both genders for hybrid nouns allows for a more comprehensive test of the effect of grammatical gender than permitted by masculine generics. Overall, the paper replicates the role of grammatical biases in gender inferences, with masculine hybrid nouns being judged as more likely to refer to male individuals as compared to feminine hybrid nouns. However the results did not reveal a symmetric bias for feminine nouns, which were interpreted as gender-neutral. But this latter result should be interpreted with caution as it could be due to uncontrolled effects of gender stereotypes coming from the specific stimuli used in the study.
Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/006626
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: To appear in Linguistics Vanguard
keywords: grammatical gender; hybrid nouns; masculine generics; gender-fair language; french, semantics, morphology
previous versions: v1 [May 2022]
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