The processing of gender information in languages of distinct morphosyntactic gender marking systems

  1. Jui-Ju Su
Supervised by:
  1. Manuel Francisco Carreiras Valiña Director
  2. Nicola Molinaro Director

Defence university: Universidad del País Vasco = Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea

Year of defence: 2017

  1. Juan Carlos Acuña Fariña Chair
  2. Joana Acha Secretary
  3. Horacio A. Barber Friend Committee member

Type: Thesis


When talking about people, gender information is taken as an essential feature during language processing. The gender here may be definitional (e.g., King is male or Queen is female), stereotypical (e.g., doctor, male-biased) and/or grammatical (e.g., miner-o/a, male/female miner, morpho-syntactic form for linguistic agreement). All the three types of gender can provide information on gender. World languages are categorized into three groups based on how gender is encoded in a language: genderless languages (no morpho-syntactic gender is required), natural languages (morpho-syntactic gender agreement is required based on biological gender) and grammatical gender languages (grammatical gender agreement is compulsory between related words). Difference between the three language groups is the presence/absence of morpho-syntactic gender. The current thesis is aimed to investigate how gender information (definitional, stereotypical and/or grammatical) is processed in languages with distinct gender marking systems. Three experiments are conducted: while Experiment I investigate pronoun resolution in a genderless language (i.e., Mandarin Chinese, for its asymmetrical gender specificity in the third person pronouns), Experiments II and III explored the processing of stereotypical gender in noun phrases in Spanish (grammatical) and Mandarin Chinese (genderless). ERP mismatch paradigm is employed for all the three experiments. Cross-linguistic comparisons are carried out and different processing mechanisms resulting from distinct gender marking systems are reported.