Perceptual Priming and Structural Choice in Russian Sentence Production

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Myachykov, Andriy; Tomlin, Russell
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Institute for Cognitive Science, Seoul National University
Journal of Cognitive Science, vol.9, no.1, pp. 31-48
word ordersyntaxattentionRussian
We report the results of a study that used perceptual priming paradigm to
investigate how attentional focus on a referent influences structural choice in
Russian sentence production. Experimental hypotheses were based on two
previously reported findings. First, some sentence production studies using
English demonstrated that perceptually priming a referent of a visual event
improves its chances of assignment as the Subject of a sentence about this event
and triggers the resulting choice between active and passive voice (Gleitman, et
al., 2007; Tomlin, 1995, 1997). Second, a study by Ferreira (1996) showed that
English speakers alternate between the structures easier and faster when they
have a wider battery of structural alternatives available to them. Our data
confirmed both findings with important detalization. First, Russian speakers
were more likely to assign the sentential starting point but not the Subject to the
perceptually primed referent alternating between the agent-initial and the
patient-initial structural alternatives. This finding suggests that perceptual
priming leads to the positional but not the preferential assignment of
grammatical roles in Russian. Second, Russian speakers having a seemingly
wider inventory of structural options than their English counterparts were more
reluctant to alternate structure as a function of the perceptual prime. This
tendency may result form the necessity to maintain early commitments to the
case-marked noun forms, which effectively binds structural selection to a much
smaller number of available alternatives than the normative grammar of Russian
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College of Humanities (인문대학)Institute for Cognitive Science (인지과학연구소)Journal of Cognitive Science (인지과학작업)Journal of Cognitive Science (인지과학작업) vol.09 (2008)
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