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Grammatical gender and linguistic relativity: A systematic review

Samuel, S. ORCID: 0000-0001-7776-7427, Cole, G. G. & Eacott, M. J. (2019). Grammatical gender and linguistic relativity: A systematic review. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 26(6), pp. 1767-1786. doi: 10.3758/s13423-019-01652-3


Many languages assign nouns to a grammatical gender class, such that "bed" might be assigned masculine gender in one language (e.g., Italian) but feminine gender in another (e.g., Spanish). In the context of research assessing the potential for language to influence thought (the linguistic relativity hypothesis), a number of scholars have investigated whether grammatical gender assignment "rubs off" on concepts themselves, such that Italian speakers might conceptualize beds as more masculine than Spanish speakers do. We systematically reviewed 43 pieces of empirical research examining grammatical gender and thought, which together tested 5,895 participants. We classified the findings in terms of their support for this hypothesis and assessed the results against parameters previously identified as potentially influencing outcomes. Overall, we found that support was strongly task- and context-dependent, and rested heavily on outcomes that have clear and equally viable alternative explanations. We also argue that it remains unclear whether grammatical gender is in fact a useful tool for investigating relativity.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This version of the article has been accepted for publication, after peer review (when applicable) and is subject to Springer Nature’s AM terms of use, but is not the Version of Record and does not reflect post-acceptance improvements, or any corrections. The Version of Record is available online at:
Publisher Keywords: grammatical gender; Whorf; Linguistic relativity; language and thought
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
Text - Accepted Version
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