Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Gender and Nouns

As you may know, some languages assign gender to nouns. Studies have shown that the gender assigned to a noun, in a language that assigns gender to nouns, can influence the way in which individuals perceive and describe the object. For example: “Key” is masculine in German but feminine in Spanish. When describing a key, German speakers typically used words such as hard, heavy, metal, serrated, and useful; Spanish speakers were more likely to use words like lovely, intricate, golden, tiny, and shiny. The word “bridge” is feminine in German but masculine in Spanish. German speakers were more likely to describe a bridge as beautiful, elegant, pretty, slender, etc., while Spanish speakers tended to use descriptors such as big, long, strong, towering, sturdy. This pattern held true even though all testing was done using English, a language in which nouns are typically gender-neutral.

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