Effects of verb overlap on structural priming in dialogue: Implications for syntactic learning in aphasia

Grace Man, Sarah Meehan, Nadine Martin, Holly Branigan, Jiyeon Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose Although there is increasing interest in using structural priming as a means to ameliorate grammatical encoding deficits in persons with aphasia (PWAs), little is known about the precise mechanisms of structural priming that are associated with robust and enduring effects in PWAs. Two dialogue-like comprehension-to-production priming experiments investigated whether lexically independent (abstract structural) priming and/or lexically (verb) specific priming yields immediate and longer, lasting facilitation of syntactic production in PWAs. Method Seventeen PWAs and 20 healthy older adults participated in a collaborative picture-matching task where participant and experimenter took turns describing picture cards using transitive and dative sentences. In Experiment 1, a target was elicited immediately following a prime. In Experiment 2, 2 unrelated utterances intervened between a prime and target, thereby allowing us to examine lasting priming effects. In both experiments, the verb was repeated for half of the prime-target pairs to examine the lexical (verb) boost on priming. Results Healthy older adults demonstrated abstract priming in both transitives and datives not only in the immediate (Experiment 1) but also in the lasting (Experiment 2) priming condition. They also showed significantly enhanced priming by verb overlap (lexical boost) in transitives during immediate priming. PWAs demonstrated abstract priming in transitives in both immediate and lasting priming conditions. However, the magnitude of priming was not enhanced by verb overlap. Conclusions Abstract structural priming, but not lexically specific priming, is associated with reliable and lasting facilitation of message-structure mapping in aphasia. The findings also suggest that implicit syntactic learning via a dialogue-like comprehension-to-production task remains preserved in aphasia.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1933-1950
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research
Issue number6
Early online date20 May 2019
Publication statusPublished - 19 Jun 2019


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