Syntactic Priming in Comprehension: the Role of Argument Order and Animacy

Maria Nella Carminati (Lead / Corresponding author), Roger P. G. van-Gompel, Christoph Scheepers, Manabu Arai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Citations (Scopus)


Two visual-world eye-movement experiments investigated the nature of syntactic priming during comprehension-specifically, whether the printing effects in ditransitive prepositional object (PO) and double object (DO) structures (e.g., "The wizard will send the poison to the prince/the prince the poison") are due to anticipation of structural properties following the verb (send) in the target sentence or to anticipation of animacy properties of the first postverbal noun. Shortly following the target verb onset. listeners looked at the recipient more (relative to the theme) following DO than PO primes, indicating that the structure of the prime affected listeners' eye gazes on the target scene. Crucially, this priming effect was the same irrespective of whether the postverbal nouns in the prime sentences did ("The monarch will send the painting to the president") or did not ("The monarch will send the envoy to the president") differ in animacy, suggesting that PO/DO priming in comprehension occurs because structural properties, rather than animacy features, are being primed when people process the ditransitive target verb.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1098-1110
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2008


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