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Stereotypes may help you when listening to speech

Research over the last decades has shown how powerful statistical learning is and how the brain makes use of every co-variation that exists in language (Hagoort & Van Berkum, 2007, Hanulíková et al., 2012). We investigated how probabilistic aspects related to speakers’ group identity (in particular, age and gender) influence language processing using eye-tracking in the Semitic language Maltese, exploiting the fact that many verb roots carry multiple meanings which differentially associated with different types of speakers, with distinctions by age and gender. Results show that speaker-identity influenced speech processing when the speaker identity was established before hearing the critical verb. It remains an open problem whether such results reflect potentially harmful sexist or ageist stereotypes or simply statistical learning.

Language use is greatly influenced by a variety of individual characteristics of the communication partners, such as age, gender, or the linguistic and/or cultural background. A better understanding of the impact of such diversity dimensions on language processing is crucial, since institutions strive for creating an inclusive environment, but struggle with the challenges posed by the resulting diversity.

This lecture series aims to explore how the experimental language sciences can be enriched by including individual person characteristics. Neuro- and psycholinguistic research on the respective diversity dimensions has been conducted in rather separate research communities. In contrast, scholars in gender studies have stressed the importance of integrating the dimensions and considering them in concert. Intersectionality, as this approach is termed, has been applied in qualitative studies on inequality and discrimination in society, but its potential for quantitative studies on language has not yet been discussed.

By bringing together researchers from linguistics, cognitive science and gender studies, the lecture series aims to promote the interdisciplinary exchange about diversity in language.

Interne Verantwortlichkeit:
FRIAS Allgemeiner Geschäftsbetrieb

Andrea Nordlander