Stereotype or grammar? The representation of gender when two-year-old and three-year-old French-speaking toddlers listen to role nouns.

Journal of child language

PubMedID: 26607035

Lévy A, Gygax P, Gabriel U, Zesiger P. Stereotype or grammar? The representation of gender when two-year-old and three-year-old French-speaking toddlers listen to role nouns. J Child Lang. 2016;1-18.
Using a preferential looking paradigm, the current study examined the role that grammatical gender plays when preschool French-speaking toddlers process role nouns in the masculine form (e. g. , chanteurs masculine 'singers'). While being auditorily prompted with "Look at the 'a role noun'!", two- and three-year-olds were presented with two pictures of two characters ('boy-boy' versus 'girl-boy') with attributes of the given role noun (e. g. , singers with microphone and music notes). All role nouns were presented in the masculine plural form, which, despite its use to refer to mixed-gender groups, can be interpreted as referring to men. We expected toddlers to be biased by stereotypes, yet when non-stereotypical role nouns were presented, toddlers were not influenced by grammatical gender, but by their own sex (even more so for three-year-old toddlers). The absence of sensitivity to grammatical cues for either age group is discussed in terms of the developmental awareness of grammatical gender.