The head constituent plays a key role in the lexical boost in syntactic priming

Jian Huang*, Xiqin Liu, Meiling Lu, Yingying Sun, Suiping Wang, Holly P. Branigan, Martin J. Pickering

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Accounts of language production make different predictions about the conditions under which structural priming should be enhanced by lexical repetition (the lexical boost). Repetition of the head verb strongly enhances structural priming of a sentence, but studies of English have found contradictory results regarding the effects of noun repetition. In two experiments, Mandarin participants read a prime sentence aloud and then produced a target picture description of a dative event. In Experiment 1, the verb was printed on the target picture, and we found that repetition of the verb enhanced priming (vs. no repetition) but repetition of the agent, theme, or recipient argument did not. In Experiment 2, both the agent noun and the verb were printed on the picture, and we found that verb repetition enhanced priming but agent repetition did not. These results indicate that the lexical boost is restricted to the head verb in Mandarin and therefore support lemma-based residual activation accounts of language production in which activation of a head leads to activation of its associated grammatical construction.
Original languageEnglish
Article number104416
JournalJournal of Memory and Language
Early online date9 Mar 2023
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2023

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • syntactic priming
  • lexical boost
  • head constituent
  • Mandarin


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