Many languages have a grammatical gender system. In these languages, objects that innately do not inherently have a gender are assigned a gender. However, they do not always agree! Sometimes, one language assigns masculine to a noun while another language assigns feminine. For instance, fork is feminine in German, but masculine in Spanish.

Researchers have begun to question if language can subconsciously affect the way you think. They recently carried out a series of studies to look at the effects grammatical gender has on people’s perceptions of similarity. They showed German and Spanish speaking subjects pairs of objects and characters, using objects that have opposite grammatical genders in German and Spanish. Not only did they find that both groups of subject found object-character pairings more similar, if the character’s gender matched the gender of the object in their language, but also found that German-Spanish bilinguals would consider the character as more similar to objects that share its grammatical gender in the language they are better at, regardless if they were born in a German or Spanish speaking country.

In Chinese, the words “he” and “she” sound identical in speech (and as far as I am aware, you don’t have to make the distinction in writing either). So I constantly make the awkward mistake of calling a guy she. I would like to think that it’s just due to my lack of gender bias!

Posted by:bojushih

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