Do speakers make use of a word’s phonological and orthographic forms to determine the syntactic structure of a sentence? We reported two Mandarin structural priming experiments involving homophones to investigate word-form feedback on syntactic encoding. Participants tended to re-use syntactic structure across sentences; such a structural priming effect was enhanced when the prime and target sentences used homophone verbs (the homophone boost), regardless of whether homophones were heterographic (homophones written in different character; Experiments 1 and 2) or homographic (homophones written in the same character; Experiment 2). Critically, the homophone boost was comparable between homographic and heterographic homophone primes (Experiment 2). Hence unlike phonology, orthography appears to play a minimal role in mediating structural priming in production. We suggest that the homophone boost results from lemma associations between homophones that develop due to phonological identity between homophones early during language learning; such associations stabilise before literacy acquisition, thus limiting the influence of orthographic identity on lemma association between homophones and in turn on structural priming in language production.
- syntactic encoding
- structural priming