The Role of Thematic Roles in Sentence Processing: Evidence from Structural Priming in Young Children
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CitationThothathiri, Malathi and Jesse Snedeker. 2010. The role of thematic roles in sentence processing: evidence from structural priming in young children. Harvard University Department of Psychology.
AbstractThe syntactic realization of a verb’s arguments is constrained by the role that the argument plays in the meaning of the verb. In most linguistic frameworks, these constraints are captured by mappings between syntactic functions and thematic roles. Such mappings clearly shape our interpretation of novel verbs. But there is controversy about when these mappings develop and whether they are employed in the processing of utterances containing known verbs. We explored these issues using the visual-world paradigm and structural priming during comprehension in 4-year-old children. In Experiment I, we found robust priming of dative constructions. This priming persisted when animacy cues were put in competition with argument structure, indicating that the locus of priming was either in syntax or in the mapping between thematic roles and syntactic functions. Experiment II demonstrated priming from locatives to datives indicating that this priming was not purely syntactic. Together these experiments provide evidence for the use of thematic mappings during sentence processing, independent of confounding syntactic or conceptual factors. We discuss the developmental implications, apparent discrepancies with the adult priming literature, and the compatibility of our findings with different theories of argument structure alternations.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:5346646
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