Representation and selection of determiners with phonological variants


  • Bürki Audrey
  • Besana Tea
  • Degiorgi Gaëlle
  • Gilbert Romane
  • Alario F.-Xavier

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The aim of this study is to contribute to a better understanding of cross-linguistic differences in the time course of determiner selection during language production. In Germanic languages, participants are slower at naming a picture using a determiner + noun utterance (die Katze ‘the cat’) when a superimposed distractor is of a different gender (gender congruency effect). In Romance languages in which the pronunciation of the determiner also depends on the phonology of the next word, there is no such effect. This difference is traditionally assumed to arise because determiners are selected later in Romance languages (late selection hypothesis). It has further been suggested that in a given language, all determiners are either selected late or early (maximum consistency principle). Data on French have challenged these two hypotheses by revealing a gender congruency effect when participants name pictures using the definite singular determiner le-la (l’ before vowels) and a noun, at positive Stimulus Onset Asynchrony (SOA), i.e., when there is a delay between the presentation of the picture and that of the distractor. We examined this finding further and investigated whether it generalises to the indefinite determiner un-une. Results of four picture-word interference experiments reveal that gender congruency effects in French are not restricted to the definite determiner or positive SOAs, but can be hard to detect in experiments which do not account for the variability in reading and naming times across participants and trials. We discuss the implications of these results for the modelling of determiner selection across languages.

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