Does Grammatical Gender Influence Perception? A Study of Polish and French Speakers

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Abstract

Can the perception of a word be influenced by its grammatical gender? Can it happen that speakers of one language perceive an object to have masculine features, while speakers of another language perceive the same object to have feminine features? Previous studies suggest that this is the case, and also that there is some supra-language gender categorisation of objects as natural/feminine and artefact/masculine. This study was an attempt to replicate these findings on another population of subjects. This is the first Polish study of this kind, comparing the perceptions of objects by Polish- and French-speaking individuals. The results of this study show that grammatical gender may cue people to assess objects as masculine or feminine. However, the findings of some previous studies, that feminine features are more often ascribed to natural objects than artifacts, were not replicated.

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