An investigation into the lexical boost with nonhead nouns

Maria Nella Carminati (Lead / Corresponding author), Roger P. G. van Gompel, Laura J. Wakeford

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19 Citations (Scopus)
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In five structural priming experiments, we investigated lexical boost effects in the production of ditransitive sentences. Although the residual activation model of Pickering and Branigan (1998) suggests that a lexical boost should only occur with the repetition of a syntactic licensing head in ditransitive prepositional object (PO)/double object (DO) structures, Scheepers, Raffray, and Myachykov (2017) recently found that it also occurs with the repetition of nouns that are not syntactic heads. We manipulated the repetition of the subject (Experiments 1–3), and the verb phrase (VP) internal arguments (i.e., either theme or recipient, Experiments 4–5) in PO/DO structures. In Experiment 2, the verb was also repeated between prime and target, while in the other experiments it was not. Three different tasks for eliciting the target were employed: picture description via the oral completion of a sentence fragment (Experiments 1–2, and 4), oral completion of a sentence fragment with no visual context (Experiment 3), and oral production of a sentence from a given array of words and no visual context (Experiment 5). Priming occurred in all experiments and was stronger when the verb was repeated (Experiment 2) than when it was not (Experiment 1). However, none of the experiments showed evidence that priming was stronger when either the subject or one of the VP-internal arguments was repeated. These findings support the view that structural information is associated with syntactic heads (i.e., the verb), but not with nonheads such as the subject noun and the VP-internal arguments (Pickering & Branigan, 1998).

Original languageEnglish
Article number104031
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Memory and Language
Early online date9 Jul 2019
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2019


  • Language production
  • Lexical boost
  • Structural priming
  • Syntactic head

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Artificial Intelligence


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