Mapping concepts to syntax: Evidence from structural priming in Mandarin Chinese

Zhenguang G. Cai, Martin J. Pickering, Holly P. Branigan

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69 Citations (Scopus)


Theories of how people construct linguistic form during production are largely based on English and closely related languages. We report three experiments that used a structural priming paradigm to investigate grammatical encoding in Mandarin Chinese, in particular the way conceptual information is mapped onto grammatical structure. The results show that, in addition to persisting in using the same syntactic form across utterances, speakers of Mandarin persisted in their mappings from conceptual elements to syntactic elements, including both grammatical functions and linear surface word order positions. The results thus argue against a two-stage model where conceptual representations are first mapped onto grammatical functions, which are then in turn mapped onto surface linear positions. Instead, the results support a one-stage model where the processor computes in a single stage a structure that specifies both the linear order and the grammatical functions of its constituents.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)833–849
JournalJournal of Memory and Language
Issue number4
Early online date30 Apr 2012
Publication statusPublished - May 2012


  • Language production
  • Syntax
  • Word order
  • Thematic role
  • Structural priming
  • Chinese

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