LingLunch : Francesca Foppolo

Thursday 09 November 2023, 12:00 to 13:00
Karen De Clercq et Ira Noveck (LLF)

LLF – Bât. ODG – 5e étage – Salle du conseil (533)

Francesca Foppolo (Milano Bicocca)
Processing grammatical and stereotypical gender in Italian: evidence from eye movements in reading

Gender refers to grammatical gender, a lexical feature of most nouns in gendered languages; semantic gender, a transparent relationship between the biological sex of the referent and the gender of nouns/pronouns. From a sociolinguistic perspective, gender involves gender bias, i.e., the contribution of gender stereotypes associated with specific words, which is particularly evident in role nouns (e.g., engineer, typically activating a male bias; teacher, typically activating a female bias). All these factors might play a role in the process of grammatical agreement, i.e., the coordinate gender assignment across elements in the sentence in gendered languages. Previous studies in Italian show that grammatical gender takes precedence over semantic agreement in anaphoric dependencies (Cacciari et al., 1997 & 2011 on epicene words). Other studies also suggest that readers integrate (gender) stereotypes, experiencing a clash when the morphological gender and the stereotypical gender associated with a role noun do not match (Carreiras et al., 1996; Padovani & Cacciari, 203; cf. also Gygax et al., 2008; Garnham et al., 2012).

We contribute to this debate by presenting an eye-tracking in reading study to address the following experimental questions:

(Q1) What are the gender agreement preferences for bigender/gendered nouns in Italian and what is the cost of a subject-verb gender mismatch during online processing?
(Q2) Does stereotypical gender of the noun interfere with subject-verb gender agreement?

These results will serve as a baseline for a follow-up study testing the impact and feasibility of Italian inclusive language in reading (some preliminary results will also be discussed).