Predicting the unbeaten path through syntactic priming

Manabu Arai*, Chie Nakamura, Reiko Mazuka

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


A number of previous studies showed that comprehenders make use of lexically based constraints such as subcategorization frequency in processing structurally ambiguous sentences. One piece of such evidence is lexically specific syntactic priming in comprehension; following the costly processing of a temporarily ambiguous sentence, comprehenders experience less processing difficulty with the same structure with the same verb in subsequent processing. In previous studies using a reading paradigm, however, the effect was observed at or following disambiguating information and it is not known whether a priming effect affects only the process of resolving structural ambiguity following disambiguating input or it also affects the process before ambiguity is resolved. Using a visual world paradigm, the current study addressed this issue with Japanese relative clause sentences. Our results demonstrated that after experiencing the relative clause structure, comprehenders were more likely to predict the usually dispreferred structure immediately upon hearing the same verb. No compatible effect, in contrast, was observed on hearing a different verb. Our results are consistent with the constraint-based lexicalist view, which assumes the parallel activation of possible structural analyses at the verb. Our study demonstrated that an experience of a dispreferred structure activates the structural information in a lexically specific manner, leading comprehenders to predict another instance of the same structure on encountering the same verb.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)482-500
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Learning Memory and Cognition
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2015 Mar 1
Externally publishedYes


  • Anticipatory eye movements
  • Garden-path sentence
  • Prediction
  • Syntactic priming
  • Visualworld paradigm

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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