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Prominence of gender cues in the assignment of thematic roles in German


Two eye-tracking experiments examined influences of grammatical and stereotypical gender cues on the assignment of thematic roles in German. Participants (N 1 = 32, N 2 = 40) read sentences with subject- and object-extracted relative clauses, where thematic agents and patients remained ambiguous until the end of the relative clause. The results reveal a linguistic gender bias: agent roles are assigned more easily to grammatically masculine than feminine role nouns and stereotypically neutral than female ones. The opposite pattern is observed in the assignment of patient roles for stereotypical but not grammatical gender. The findings are discussed within the framework of situation model theories as well as in constraint-based and similarity-based interference accounts, while gender is viewed as a dimension of prominence.

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ADDRESS FOR CORRESPONDENCE Yulia Esaulova, Potsdam Research Institute for Multilingualism, University of Potsdam, Karl-Liebknecht-Strasse 24–25, Potsdam 14476, Germany. E-mail:
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