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Title: Language and cognition : effects of grammatical gender on the categorisation of objects
Authors: Almutrafi, Fatimah
Issue Date: 2015
Publisher: Newcastle University
Abstract: One of the key testing grounds for investigating linguistic relativity is to study the effects of grammatical gender on speakers of two languages (bilinguals) who have the category of gender present in only one of their languages. Previous studies have shown that speakers of grammatically gendered languages think of objects as being either masculine or feminine according to the grammatical gender of the objects’ nouns. This study investigates the possible effects of grammatical gender on Arabic-English bilinguals and on two ‘control’ monolingual speakers of Arabic and English. Specifically, two cognitive experiments were carried out in order to investigate gender effects with variations in task instructions and task demands (categorisation vs. similarity ratings). In the first experiment, the bilingual and monolingual participants were asked to attribute masculine and feminine voices to pictures of inanimate items. The results show that the English speakers assigned voices arbitrarily, whereas the Arabic monolinguals attributed more masculine voices to objects whose noun is grammatically masculine in Arabic and more feminine voices to objects whose noun is grammatically feminine in that language, showing the strong effects of the Arabic grammatical gender system. The bilinguals were not greatly affected by the gender system and their voice attributions were somewhere between the two monolingual groups. In the second experiment, the monolinguals and Arabic-English bilinguals were asked to rate similarities between pairs on seven-point scales. The rating task used only pictorial stimuli in an attempt to prevent any strategic use of grammatical gender. Results show that all groups rated the pairs similarly and did not significantly diverge from each other. Overall, these studies suggest that conceptual organisation seems to be free from the effect of grammatical gender and that ways of accessing cognitive representations differ with the modalities tested and with the demands of the task.
Description: PhD Thesis
Appears in Collections:School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences

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