Syntactic priming in spoken sentence production: An onlline study

Mark Smith, Linda Wheeldon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

94 Citations (Scopus)


Six experiments investigate syntactic priming online via a picture description task in which participants produce target sentences whose initial phrase is syntactically similar or dissimilar to that of the prime sentence produced on the previous trial. In the first experiment it is shown that a syntactically related prime sentence speeds onset latencies to a subsequent target sentence by approximately 50 ms relative to a syntactically unrelated prime sentence. In the second experiment,, the cost Of the process of lemma access is factored out via a picture previewing technique but a priming effect is still obtained demonstrating that the effect is not a product of the priming of lemma access processes. In Experiment 3, the related and unrelated prime trials feature the same picture display but the 50 ms facilitation effect is still observed indicating that the effect does not result from the priming of visual perception of the picture movements. This is further strengthened in Experiment 4 which uses written prime sentences rather than a picture description task on the prime trial and still obtains a facilitation effect.. In Experiment 5, the effect disappears when the participants are instructed to name the movements but not the objects depicted in the array and this is interpreted as evidence against the view that the effect results from the conceptualization of the events depicted by the array. In the final experiment, the scope of the syntactic persistence effect is investigated by priming sentences with initial phrases of varying syntactic complexity. Significant priming is only observed for an initial phrase featuring two nouns - a finding consistent with the view that the syntactic persistence effect applies only to the generation of the first phrase of an utterance prior to speech onset. The implications of these results are analyzed in the final discussion section. (C) 2001 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)123-164
Number of pages42
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2001


  • syntactic priming
  • online study
  • spoken sentence production


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