The aim of the current study is to further investigate the role of the noun suffix in the processing of grammatical gender. We used nouns in which the final vowel is consistent with the typical gender-to-ending distribution in Italian (transparent nouns ending in -aFEM and in –oMASC; e.g. bibitaFEM, “drink” ); nouns in which the final vowel is not informative of the gender (opaque nouns, ending in –e; e.g. verniceFEM, “paint”); and nouns whose grammatical gender does not conform to the gender that would be expected from the suffix (irregular nouns; e.g. manoFEM, “hand”). Previous research suggests that when the orthographical-phonological information conveyed by the noun suffix is inconsistent with gender, lexical processing is slower and less accurate (Bates, Devescovi, Pizzamiglio, D’Amico & Hernandez, 1995). However, the morphological status of the noun suffix and the time course with which the suffix is used in processing semantic gender and arbitrary grammatical gender are still unclear. To test the influence of the noun suffix on the gender processing, we used a paradigm highly similar to that employed by Dell’Acqua, Pesciarelli, Jolicouer, Eimer & Peressotti (2007). In our behavioural study we contrasted the role of the noun suffix in Italian nouns characterized either by a semantic gender (e.g., mammaFEM, “mother”) or by an arbitrary gender (e.g., lampadaFEM, “lamp”), with transparent, opaque or irregular endings. The noun was followed by two lateralized stimuli (an adjective and a distractor) presented one to the left and one to the right of a central fixation cross. Each noun was paired with a gender agreeing or disagreeing adjective (e.g bibitaFEM gasataFEM /gasatoMASC, “drink fizzy”) and participants were asked to judge whether they agree or not. Our results showed that: 1. the gender-to-ending consistency of the suffix affected the computation of grammatical agreement; 2. the effect was stronger for biological than for arbitrary gender nouns. Our data confirm the direction of the effect of orthographical-phonological transparency, further showing the influence of biological gender.
The influence of the noun suffix in the processing of grammatical gender in Italian / Caffarra, Sendy; Pesciarelli, Francesca; Cacciari, Cristina. - (2011), pp. 20-20.