Research on the gender-congruency effect in speech production across languages suggests that access to grammatical gender during production is modulated by language-specific properties. The present study extends this line of research by seeking evidence for linguistic idiosyncratic influence on gender processing, however, from a within language comparison. Accordingly, it investigated the processing of gender information of Hebrew inanimate nouns from a foreign origin that do not have the typical morphologically complex Semitic structure of Hebrew nouns. The findings were evaluated in relation to previous findings derived from typical native Hebrew nouns. Gender processing was studied through the picture-word-interference (PWI) paradigm for estimating the gender-congruency effect induced by presenting a spoken distractor word of the same or of a different gender of the picture to be named. Across two experiments naming latency, for bare nouns (Exp. 1) and noun phrases (Exp. 2) revealed a different pattern of results from the pattern previously found for typical native inanimate Hebrew nouns—an inhibitory gender-congruency effect for feminine nouns only, but no congruency effect for masculine nouns. The unique pattern observed for this group of words reflects the high sensitivity of the linguistic system, in terms of gender processing, to the basic morphological structure of words. Thus, even within a language, the linguistic processor accommodates itself to item-specific properties. It is suggested that the specific pattern of the results reflects the attempt of the system to assimilate deviant forms within existing procedures on the basis of a flexible criterion of similarity.
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- Gender-congruency effect
- gender effect in production
- gender processing of irregular words
- picture-word-interference paradigm