The activation of inappropriate analyses in garden-path sentences: evidence from structural priming

Roger P. G. van Gompel (Lead / Corresponding author), Martin J. Pickering, Jamie Pearson, Gunnar Jacob

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74 Citations (Scopus)


In three structural priming experiments, we investigated temporarily ambiguous sentences such as While the man was visiting the children who were surprisingly pleasant and funny played outside. Participants produced more transitive sentences following such temporarily ambiguous sentences than following unambiguous sentences that were disambiguated by the use of a comma, indicating that the initial transitive analysis remained activated even though it was inconsistent with the disambiguation. We argue that this provides evidence against full deactivation of the inappropriate analysis. Our results support models that claim that the initial, inappropriate analysis remains activated, either because it leaves a memory trace [Kaschak, M. P., & Glenberg, A. M. (2004) This construction needs learned. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 133, 450–467] or because readers do not fully reanalyze the sentence when they encounter the disambiguation [Christianson, K., Hollingworth, A., Halliwell, J.F., & Ferreira, F. (2001). Thematic roles assigned along the garden path linger. Cognitive Psychology, 42, 368–407].
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)335-362
Number of pages28
JournalJournal of Memory and Language
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2006


  • Sentence processing
  • Syntactic processing
  • Activation
  • Deactivation
  • Reanalysis
  • Structural priming


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