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Academic Paper

Title: Beyond Syntactic Priming: Evidence for Activation of Alternative Syntactic Structures
Author: Marina Vasilyeva
Institution: Boston College
Author: Heidi R Waterfall
Email: click here TO access email
Institution: Cornell University
Linguistic Field: Language Acquisition; Syntax
Subject Language: English
Abstract: Priming methodology was previously used to investigate children's ability to represent abstract syntactic forms. Existing evidence indicates that following exposure to a particular syntactic structure (such as the passive voice), English-speaking children increase their production of that structure with new lexical items. In the present work, we utilize priming methodology to explore whether exposure to passive primes may increase children's production of sentences that have a different structure but share a similar purpose in discourse. We report three studies, two involving English- and Russian-speaking children, and a third involving Russian-speaking adults. Unlike English, Russian offers a variety of syntactic forms that emphasize the patient of a transitive action, thus fulfilling the discourse function of the passive. We found that English speakers increased the use of the particular syntactic form presented in the prime, whereas Russian speakers increased their production of several different syntactic forms used to emphasize the patient of the action.


This article appears IN Journal of Child Language Vol. 39, Issue 2, which you can READ on Cambridge's site .

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