The impact of notional number and grammatical gender on number agreement with conjoined noun phrases

Heidi Lorimor, Carrie N. Jackson, Katharina Spalek, Janet G. van Hell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


ABSTRACT: Morphophonology influences subject–verb agreement in a wide variety of languages. Dominant models of agreement production [e.g. Marking and Morphing, Eberhard, K. M., Cutting, J. C., & Bock, J. K. (2005). Making syntax of sense: Number agreement in sentence production. Psychological Review, 112, 531–559. doi:10.1037/0033-295X.112.3.531 Competition models, Mirković, J., & MacDonald, M. C. (2013). When singular and plural are both grammatical: Semantic and morphophonological effects in agreement. Journal of Memory and Language, 69, 277–298. doi:10.1016/j.jml.2013.05.001 posit explanations for morphophonological effects that depend on ambiguity. The present study uses sentence completion tasks in Dutch (Experiment 1) and German (Experiment 2) that manipulate notional number and grammatical gender with conjoined noun phrases to investigate how morphophonology affects number agreement. Results show that speakers of both languages produced more singular agreement with items construed as more notionally singular, and with items containing two nouns with the same grammatical gender, even though, prima facie, grammatical gender should be irrelevant for subject–verb number agreement in these languages. Experiment 2 showed that the grammatical gender effect was not driven by morphophonological ambiguity. These results provide novel insight into how morphophonology, via cue-based retrieval, can affect subject–verb number agreement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)646-661
Number of pages16
JournalLanguage, Cognition and Neuroscience
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 27 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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