Effects of case-marking and head position on language production? Evidence from an ergative OV language

Mikel Santesteban, Martin J. Pickering, Itziar Laka, Holly P. Branigan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


How ease of access to semantic, lexical, morphological, and syntactic information affects constituent structure selection has been investigated exclusively in nominative/accusative head-initial (VO) languages. We investigated whether these findings can be generalised to ergative head-final (OV) languages like Basque. Using the structural priming paradigm, we studied Basque native speakers’ choice of description of events involving psychological-verbs (intransitive [NPABS-PP-VPSYCH] vs. transitive [NPERG-NPABS-VPSYCH] structures). Experiment 1 showed structural priming and lexical boost effects: more intransitive [NPABS-PP-VPSYCH] descriptions produced after intransitive [NPABS-PP-VPSYCH] than transitive [NPERG-NPABS-VPSYCH] primes, and stronger effects with verb repetition. Experiment 3 showed that structural similarity between prime and target enhances priming. Finally, Experiments 2 and 4 revealed no case-marking repetition boost effects to structural priming: intransitive [NPABS-PP-VPSYCH] structures were equally primed by intransitive structures with absolutive-marked ([NPABS-VINTR]) or ergative-marked ([NPERG-VINTR]) subjects. We conclude that sentence production is verb-based in both VO and OV languages, and that case-marking occurs after structural selection.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1175-1186
Number of pages12
JournalLanguage, Cognition and Neuroscience
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 21 Oct 2015


  • Basque
  • ergativity
  • lexical boost
  • OV language
  • sentence production
  • syntactic priming

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