Masculine generic pronouns as a gender cue in generic statements

Redl, T., Szuba, A., de Swart, P., Frank, S. L., & de Hoop, H. (2022). Masculine generic pronouns as a gender cue in generic statements. Discourse Processes, 59, 828-845. doi:10.1080/0163853X.2022.2148071.
An eye-tracking experiment was conducted with speakers of Dutch (N = 84, 36 male), a language that falls between grammatical and natural-gender languages. We tested whether a masculine generic pronoun causes a male bias when used in generic statements—that is, in the absence of a specific referent. We tested two types of generic statements by varying conceptual number, hypothesizing that the pronoun zijn “his” was more likely to cause a male bias with a conceptually singular than a conceptually plural ante-cedent (e.g., Someone (conceptually singular)/Everyone (conceptually plural) with perfect pitch can tune his instrument quickly). We found male participants to exhibit a male bias but with the conceptually singular antecedent only. Female participants showed no signs of a male bias. The results show that the generically intended masculine pronoun zijn “his” leads to a male bias in conceptually singular generic contexts but that this further depends on participant gender.
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