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SpraGe - Language and Gender


Project duration: 01.11.2013 - 31.12.2016


Language and Gender investigates possible differences in the quality of vocabulary knowledge of girls and boys. Using empirical analysis, presumed advantages girls have with words with female connotations and boys with words with male connotations will be investigated.

Project description

Language and Gender empirically tests whether boys and girls in primary and the beginning of secondary school (10 to 14 years) have systematically different vocabulary knowledge of words with male, female, or neutral connotations. Scholastic success is built upon comprehensive language skills, the basis of which is vocabulary. Findings from developmental psychology suggest that boys and girls develop different interests and prefer different activities. Accordingly, they are likely to come into contact with different words in their everyday lives. As a result, systematic differences could develop in the quality of their vocabulary knowledge.

The project is based on a variety of data sources and ages, and different samples (e.g., fourth graders) and instruments (e.g., verbal KFT scale) are used. Using theory-based ratings the relevant words are categorized as having masculine (for example, "profit"), feminine (as "intimately"), or neutral connotations (for example, "heat"). Rating conformity is empirically verified. Relative strengths of a gender group with gender-conform connoted items are tested using a Differential Item Functioning analysis (DIF), allowing for both quantitative and qualitative differences between students to be analyzed depending on the connotation of the words. Subsequently, it is checked whether the expected gender patterns are present in different cultures coming from children immigrant backgrounds. As a whole, the project raises awareness for gender-sensitive linguistic support. Further analysis can provide detailed information about mechanisms and opportunities for further support.

Lead researcher at IFS

Foto von Prof. Dr. Nele McElvany Prof. Dr. Nele McElvany,

Campus Nord, CDI, Room CDI / 232
Telephone: (+49)231 755-5512

Project management

Foto von Prof. Dr. Nele McElvany Prof. Dr. Nele McElvany,

Campus Nord, CDI, Room CDI / 232
Telephone: (+49)231 755-5512

External project partners

Freie Universität Berlin

  • Prof. Dr. Ursula Kessels

Sub content


  •  Professor McElvany

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