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<i>Mom and Dad</i> but <i>Men and Women</i>

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Abstract

Departing from Benor and Levy&#8217;s approach to binomials (2006), this study investigated the sequencing of word pairs by controlling grammatical, geographical, and semantic variables. Accordingly, 59 sex-determined noun pairs commonly actualized in American English were examined. The preferred sequencing of 56 of these pairs is predicted by a heuristic that applies three constraints sequentially: (1) the metrical constraint &#8211; if the pair&#8217;s syllables are asymmetrical, the noun with fewer syllables comes first; (2) the family relationship constraint (discovered in this study) &#8211; if the pair&#8217;s syllables are symmetrical and the pair expresses a family relationship, the feminine term precedes the masculine term; and (3) the power constraint, where the masculine noun precedes the feminine term in the remaining symmetrical pairs.

References

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