My topics of interest

About grammatical gender

I am a tree. I am confused
about my gender.

If you are not familiar with the concept of grammatical gender, let me explain it to you: Some languages are wonderfully weird and classify their nouns according to specific gender categories. As a Portuguese speaker, a tree is feminine for me, but as a Spanish speaker, it is masculine!

I am interested in understanding how speakers of gendered languages represent gender in their mind and process it during language production and comprehension.

More specifically, I want to understand:
  • How orthography and phonology may contribute to gender selection
  • Whether there are differences on the processing of the masculine and feminine gender values
  • ... If there are, whether they are due to social or linguistic reasons (or both)
  • How bilinguals process gender when translations have different gender values
  • About gender transparency

    Perhaps what interests me the most when it comes to grammatical gender is the way gender can be expressed in the form of nouns. This relationship varies accross languages. In Dutch, for instance, you cannot predict gender from the form of a noun. In German, you can, but it is quite hard. In Spanish, it is super easy, thanks to two magical cues:

    'a' 'o'

    Around 60 to 70% of the nouns in the so-called transparent languages Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese display those two cues at the end of the noun. This has led me to question the universality of the gender representation and processing across languages, and to develop a model that accomodates the encoding of gender in a satisfactory way in both opaque and transparent languages. Hence, my interests here are:

  • Testing my adaptation of the AUSTRAL model of lexical access for gender retrieval in languages of different families.
  • Refining a computational model I developed with some colleagues to quantitatively assess the degree of gender transparency of languages.
  • About animacy

    Living entities are prioritized by our cognitive system in many dimensions, including language processing. I am interested in the next research questions:

  • Undestanding to which extent semantic processing is prioritized during lexical access in animate nouns.
  • Understanding whether the processing of the syntactic properties of nouns during lexical access can be skipped in animate nouns if they are not necessary.