Stroop-like interference of grammatical and visual number

Piotr Gulgowski, Joanna Błaszczak
  • Acta Linguistica Academica, June 2018, Akademiai Kiado
  • DOI: 10.1556/2062.2018.65.2-3.3

Stroop effect, grammatical number, numerical cognition, markedness, plural

What is it about?

The current paper presents results of two experiments attempting to replicate with Polish speakers a Stroop-like interference of grammatical number with the counting task, first reported by Berent et al. (2005) for Hebrew. Both experiments tested the influence of the type of number morphology (marked with overt suffix vs. unmarked) of nouns on the strength of the interference effect. Additionally, the second experiment investigated the processing of nouns with a mismatch between grammatical and conceptual number and tested the possible effect of animacy on number interpretation in order to determine the time at which the information about grammatical number is activated. The first experiment showed a significant interaction between the grammatical number and visual numerosity of the counted words and the effect of markedness, with marked singulars producing a bigger congruency effect than unmarked singulars. However, in the second experiment the influence of morphology was reversed and the overall effects were considerably weaker.

Why is it important?

Most human languages possess special means of expressing number contrasts in a systematic way through quantifiers or dedicated number words. Many languages treat number as a special grammatical category. This is a particularly interesting linguistic device, because in languages like English or Polish grammatical number is an obligatory property of nouns forcing the speakers to constantly pay attention to this feature in both production and comprehension. At the same time, we have the ability to mentally represent quantities in a way that seems at least partially independent of linguistic description (numerical cognition). Both grammatical number and numerical cognition are well defined and extensively studied phenomena and their overlap constitutes an interesting research subject for investigating the interface between language and other cognitive systems.

Read Publication

The following have contributed to this page: Dr hab. Joanna Błaszczak