Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Sex of speaker affects listener language processing

Date:
November 19, 2013
Source:
University of Kansas, Life Span Institute
Summary:
Grammar and syntax have been thought for decades to be automatic and untouchable by other brain processes and that everything else — the sex of the speaker, their dialect, etc. — is stripped away as our brains process the sound signal of a word and store it as an abstract form. A study now suggests that even higher-level processes – in this case, grammar - are affected by information about the speaker.

Whether we process language we hear without regard to anything about the speaker is a longstanding scientific debate. But it wasn't until University of Kansas scientists set up an experiment showing that the sex of a speaker affected how quickly listeners identified words grammatically that there was evidence that even higher-level processes are affected by the speaker.

Based on the fact that Spanish words have a grammatical gender -- words ending in "o" are typically masculine and in "a" are typically feminine -- the researchers showed that the sex of a speaker affected how fast and accurately listeners could identify a list of Spanish words as masculine or feminine. When there was a mismatch between the sex of the speaker and the gender of the word, listeners slowed down in identifying the word grammatically and were less accurate. Both the speakers and listeners were native Spanish speakers.

Grammar and syntax have been thought for decades to be automatic and untouchable by other brain processes, said Michael Vitevitch, KU professor of psychology. Everything else -- the sex of the speaker, their dialect, etc. -- is stripped away as our brains process the sound signal of a word and store it as an abstract form. This is the abstractionist model of how we store words in memory championed by well-known cognitive scientist, linguist and philosopher Noam Chomsky and his followers.

An alternate school of thought conceives of our brains processing words using exemplars containing and indexing information about both the word and the speaker.

"Our study shows that all that other information does influence not just word recognition processing, but higher-level processes associated with grammar," said Vitevitch.

Vitevitch said that while linguists and psychologists have debated whether memory is abstract or exemplar, he believes that there is evidence for both. "We didn't evolve to be efficient. We evolved to get the job done," he said. "We need both systems."

The study was published in in the journal PLOS ONE on Nov. 13.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Kansas, Life Span Institute. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Michael S. Vitevitch, Joan Sereno, Allard Jongman, Rutherford Goldstein. Speaker Sex Influences Processing of Grammatical Gender. PLoS ONE, 2013; 8 (11): e79701 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0079701

Cite This Page:

University of Kansas, Life Span Institute. "Sex of speaker affects listener language processing." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 November 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131119141945.htm>.
University of Kansas, Life Span Institute. (2013, November 19). Sex of speaker affects listener language processing. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 1, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131119141945.htm
University of Kansas, Life Span Institute. "Sex of speaker affects listener language processing." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131119141945.htm (accessed September 1, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Monday, September 1, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Can You Train Your Brain To Eat Healthy?

Can You Train Your Brain To Eat Healthy?

Newsy (Sep. 1, 2014) — New research says if you condition yourself to eat healthy foods, eventually you'll crave them instead of junk food. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Coffee Then Napping: The (New) Key To Alertness

Coffee Then Napping: The (New) Key To Alertness

Newsy (Aug. 30, 2014) — Researchers say having a cup of coffee then taking a nap is more effective than a nap or coffee alone. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Young Entrepreneurs Get $100,000, If They Quit School

Young Entrepreneurs Get $100,000, If They Quit School

AFP (Aug. 29, 2014) — Twenty college-age students are getting 100,000 dollars from a Silicon Valley leader and a chance to live in San Francisco in order to work on the start-up project of their dreams, but they have to quit school first. Duration: 02:20 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Baby Babbling Might Lead To Faster Language Development

Baby Babbling Might Lead To Faster Language Development

Newsy (Aug. 29, 2014) — A new study suggests babies develop language skills more quickly if their parents imitate the babies' sounds and expressions and talk to them often. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins