Theories of language processing generally assume that speakers construct independent representations for syntactic and semantic information, based largely on evidence from English and related languages. But it is not clear whether the assumption of autonomous syntactic representations extends to other languages with different typological characteristics. We therefore conducted two structural priming studies investigating production of dative sentences in Mandarin, a language whose interpretation appears to be more reliant on non-relational (intrinsic) semantics (e.g., animacy features). We examined whether participants’ tendency to repeat syntax was affected by whether the theme and recipient arguments matched or mismatched in animacy across prime and target. Participants repeated syntax to the same extent irrespective of whether prime and target arguments had matched or mismatched animacy. These findings provide evidence that the separation of syntactic and semantic representations occurs in Mandarin and therefore may occur across languages.
- structural priming