Gender congruency goes Europe: A cross-linguistic study of the gender congruency effect in Romance and Germanic languages


  • Finocchiaro Chiara
  • Alario F.-Xavier
  • Schiller Niels O
  • Costa Albert
  • Miozzo Michele
  • Caramazza Alfonso


  • Grammatical gender
  • Lexical access
  • Morphological processes

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We report a thorough investigation of the gender congruency effect previously reported by Cubelli, Lotto, Girelli, Paolieri, and Job (2005) in a picture-word interference study, namely slower RTs at producing Italian bare nouns in the presence of same-gender distractors than in the presence of different-gender distractors. In order to account for this finding, the authors hypothesised a double competition mechanism of lexical selection. By capitalizing on the two keyconcepts of morphological decomposability and gender transparency, we conducted a series of picture-word interference experiments in Italian (the language of Cubelli et al's study; Experiments 1-2), and Spanish (a language with very similar relevant characteristics for which a gender effect in bare noun production has also been found, see Paolieri, Lotto, Leoncini, Cubelli, & Job (2010) ; Experiment 3) as well as French, German, and Dutch, i.e. three languages with variable degrees of correspondence between gender and phonology (Experiments 4-6). Overall, our cross-linguistic data do not provide reliable evidence for an effect of grammatical gender in bare noun naming. Hence, they raise substantial problems for the hypothesis of double-competition in lexical access.

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