[PS-3.80] The role of closed class content in Chinese sentence production: Evidence from syntactic priming

Chen, X. 1 , Huang, J. 1 , Wang, S. 1 , Pickering, M. 2 & Branigan, H. 2

1 School of Psychology, South China Normal University, Guangzhou, China
2 Department of Psychology, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK

The role of lexical information in syntactic processing is a core issue in language production. Syntactic priming studies in English have shown that participants repeat syntax irrespective of whether lexical content is repeated (e.g., to vs. for in dative sentences). We examined whether Chinese, a language in which closed class elements play a central role in syntax, would show similar independence of lexical and syntactic processing. In Experiment 1, participants described ditransitive events after one of four different kinds of prime sentences: DO containing a strongly DO-biasing preposition (gei); DO containing a strongly PO-biasing aspectual marker (le); PO containing a strongly PO-biasing aspectual marker (le); and PO containing a weakly PO-biasing preposition (dao). DO and PO sentences with a congruent strongly biasing cue yielded stronger priming than those with an incongruent or weakly biasing cue. In Experiment 2, we used PO prime sentences containing a strongly PO-biasing or DO-biasing cue (gei vs. le), or no cue. Compared to the no cue condition, the strongly PO-biasing cue showed positive PO priming and the strongly DO-biasing cue yielded negative PO priming. These results together suggest that the preposition does play an important role during the building of syntactic representations in Chinese.