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Cross-structural priming: prepositional phrase attachment primes relative clause attachment.

Authors
  • Loncke, Maaike1
  • Van Laere, Sébastien M J
  • Desmet, Timothy
  • 1 Department of Experimental Psychology, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium. [email protected] , (Belgium)
Type
Published Article
Journal
Experimental psychology
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2011
Volume
58
Issue
3
Pages
227–234
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1027/1618-3169/a000089
PMID: 21106469
Source
Medline
License
Unknown

Abstract

In this paper we show that attachment height (high vs. low attachment) of a modifier to a complex noun phrase (CNP; e.g., "the servant of the actress"), can be primed between dissimilar syntactic structures. In a sentence completion experiment, we found that the attachment height of a prepositional phrase (PP) in the prime sentence primed the attachment height of a relative clause (RC) in the target sentence. This cross-structural priming effect cannot be explained in terms of the priming of specific phrase-structure rules or even sequences of specific phrase-structure rules (Scheepers, 2003), because the attachment of a PP to a CNP is generated by a different phrase-structure rule than the attachment of an RC. However, the present data suggest that the location at which the RC is attached to the CNP is mentally represented, independent of the specific phrase-structure rule that is attached, or by extension, that the abstract hierarchical configuration of the full CNP and the attached RC is represented (Desmet & Declercq, 2006). This is the first demonstration of a cross-structural priming effect that cannot be captured by phrase-structure rules.

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