Conceptual structure modulates structural priming in the production of complex sentences

Zenzi M. Griffin, Justin Weinstein-Tull

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

74 Scopus citations


Speakers tend to reproduce syntactic structures that they have recently comprehended or produced. This structural or syntactic priming occurs despite differences in the particular conceptual or event roles expressed in prime and target sentences (Bock & Loebell, 1990). In two sentence recall studies, we used the tendency of speakers to paraphrase the finite complements of object-raising verbs as infinitive complements (e.g., "John believed that Mary was nice" as "John believed Mary to be nice") to test whether an additional conceptual role would affect priming. Prime constructions with identical constituent orders as object-raising infinitives but an additional conceptual role ("John persuaded Mary to be nice") resulted in fewer paraphrases. Contrasts with other constructions suggest that the critical difference between primes was this extra conceptual role. Thus, subtle differences in conceptual structures can affect how speakers grammatically encode message elements.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)537-555
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Memory and Language
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Language production
  • Message planning
  • Semantics
  • Sentence recall
  • Structural priming
  • Syntax

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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