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Verbs as linguistic markers of agency: The social side of grammar

  • Basic grammatical categories may carry social meanings irrespective of their semantic content. In a set of four studies, we demonstrate that verbs—a basic linguistic category present and distinguishable in most languages—are related to the perception of agency, a fundamental dimension of social perception. In an archival analysis of actual language use in Polish and German, we found that targets stereotypically associated with high agency (men and young people) are presented in the immediate neighborhood of a verb more often than non-agentic social targets (women and older people). Moreover, in three experiments using a pseudo-word paradigm, verbs (but not adjectives and nouns) were consistently associated with agency (but not with communion). These results provide consistent evidence that verbs, as grammatical vehicles of action, are linguistic markers of agency. In demonstrating meta-semantic effects of language, these studies corroborate the view of language as a social tool and an integral part of social perception.

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Author:Magdalena FormanowiczORCiD, Janin RoesselORCiDGND, Caterina SuitnerORCiD, Anne MaassORCiDGND
Parent Title (English):European Journal of Social Psychology
Place of publication:Hoboken, NJ
Document Type:Article
Year of first Publication:2017
Date of Publication (online):2023/05/23
Publishing Institution:Leibniz-Institut für Deutsche Sprache (IDS) [Zweitveröffentlichung]
Tag:agency; language; meta-semantic effects; social judgment; verbs
GND Keyword:Deutsch; Grammatik; Polnisch; Semantik; Soziale Wahrnehmung; Verb
First Page:566
Last Page:579
This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Formanowicz, M., Roessel, J., Suitner, C., and Maass, A. (2017): Verbs as linguistic markers of agency: The social side of grammar. Eur. J. Soc. Psychol., 47: 566– 579., which has been published in final form at https://doi.org/10.1002/ejsp.2231. This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Use of Self-Archived Versions. This article may not be enhanced, enriched or otherwise transformed into a derivative work, without express permission from Wiley or by statutory rights under applicable legislation. Copyright notices must not be removed, obscured or modified. The article must be linked to Wiley’s version of record on Wiley Online Library and any embedding, framing or otherwise making available the article or pages thereof by third parties from platforms, services and websites other than Wiley Online Library must be prohibited.
DDC classes:400 Sprache / 400 Sprache, Linguistik
Open Access?:ja
Linguistics-Classification:Psycholinguistik / Kognitive Linguistik
Licence (German):License LogoUrheberrechtlich geschützt