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This article investigates whether human masculine plural noun phrases (NPs) in Spanish, which can be interpreted with an exclusively masculine or a mixed-gender meaning, are a case of balanced or unbalanced ambiguity. The results of an experiment using a sentence continuation task with oral stimuli are consistent with the claim that masculine grammatical gender biases listeners toward an exclusively masculine interpretation. The acceptance rate of continuations with the pronoun uno/una referring to a masculine plural antecedent showed that the exclusively masculine meaning of the NP is accessed more frequently and involves a lower cognitive cost than the mixed-gender interpretation. Further, this effect interacts with the stereotypicality of the noun: nouns independently established to carry a masculine stereotype are less likely to be associated with a mixed-gender interpretation. The study also found that the speakers’ attitudes toward nonsexist language predict their acceptance of the mixed-gender interpretation of masculine NPs.
This article addresses the effect of communicative activity on the use of language and gesture by school-age children. The present study examined oral narratives and explanations produced by children aged six and ten years on the basis of several linguistic and gestural measures. Results showed that age affects both gestural and linguistic behaviour, supporting previous findings that multimodal discourse continues to develop during the school-age years. The task (narration vs. explanation) also had clear effects on the use of language and gesture: gestures and subordinate markers were more frequent in explanations than in narratives, whereas cohesion markers were more often used in narratives. Altogether, these results show partly distinctive developmental patterns between narrative monologic discourse behaviour and explanatory behaviour in the context of dialogue and question–answer exchanges.
Despite the interest in null direct objects in Spanish, the case of direct objects with propositional antecedents, which complement cognition and communication verbs, remains mostly uninvestigated. This article investigates, from a comparative variationist perspective, null direct objects with propositional antecedents, variably coded by the clitic lo, in Mexican and Peninsular Spanish. Variable rule analysis of six Spanish corpora reveals a big difference between the two dialects in the frequency of overt vs. null neuter pronoun yet shows that some of the linguistic constraints conditioning the variation are shared by both dialects (presence of a dative pronoun, type of antecedent, sentence type), suggesting that the null pronoun has the same grammatical role in both dialects. Some divergences in the conditioning of the null pronoun also emerge from the analysis and the sociodemographic information available suggests the existence of a change in progress in Mexican Spanish.
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