Contributions of animacy to grammatical function assignment and word order during production

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

We examine how the relationship between animacy and syntactic structure might be explained in terms of an influence of animacy on the psychological processes that underlie the construction of syntactic structure during language production. In this account, animacy exerts its influence through its correlation with conceptual accessibility, or how easily a concept is retrieved from memory. Animate entities are conceptually highly accessible and are therefore retrieved more easily. Because language production is incremental, easily accessed information is processed first; animate entities therefore tend to be privileged during syntactic processes of production. We consider two possible models of how animacy might influence syntactic processing: through an effect on grammatical function assignment, or through a direct effect on word order. We argue that experimental cross-linguistic evidence supports a third model, in which animacy can simultaneously influence both grammatical function assignment and the determination of word order. Finally, we consider why animacy might not affect word order in conjunctions. (c) 2007 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)172-189
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - 2008

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • animacy


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