Journal of Cultural Cognitive Science

, Volume 3, Supplement 1, pp 89–104 | Cite as

The production of passives by English-Norwegian and Turkish-Norwegian bilinguals: a preliminary investigation using a cross-linguistic structural priming manipulation

  • Gözde MercanEmail author
  • Hanne Gram Simonsen
Research Paper


This preliminary study tested cross-linguistic structural priming of passives in two groups of adult bilinguals speaking Norwegian-English and Norwegian-Turkish to understand the nature of syntactic mental representations in bilingual minds. Passives in spoken Norwegian are structurally similar to those in English, whereas passives in Turkish are distinct in being morphologically constructed. A shared syntax account based on the similarity of the structures would predict structural priming effects for the Norwegian-English group but not the Norwegian-Turkish group. Results of a computerized picture description task showed that participants provided more active descriptions than passives, but did not indicate any priming in terms of an increased likelihood of repeating the type of the prime they heard in Norwegian in their target picture description in English or Turkish. This can be related to the small sample size or the observation that there were too few passive productions overall. We thus ran an additional analysis which indicated that participants were more likely to produce passives when the target pictures contained inanimate agents. We also ran a separate analysis on Turkish target responses, which did not reveal an effect of prime type on the emphasis of thematic role (agent vs. patient). However, this analysis also showed that pictures with inanimate agents were more likely to be described with target structures emphasizing the patient rather than the agent. We suggest that further research is required to get a clearer picture of the role of the similarity of passives in cross-linguistic structural priming.


Cross-linguistic structural priming Bilingualism Norwegian Turkish English Passives Syntactic representation 



This study was funded by the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TÜBİTAK) under the BİDEB 2219 International Postdoctoral Research Fellowship granted for the first author’s postdoctoral research at the Center for Multilingualism in Society across the Lifespan (MultiLing), at the University of Oslo (UiO) (01.05.2014–01.08.2015). The study was conducted on the premises of MultiLing, at UiO, a research center financed by the Research Council of Norway, using the facilities of the center and was thus supported in part by the Research Council of Norway through its Centers of Excellence funding scheme, project number 223265. We thank MultiLing Theme 1 for a grant for language proofreading services for this paper, as well. We would also like to thank Bernt Brendemoen, Emel Türker, Yeşim Sevinç-Brohet and our colleagues at MultiLing for their helpful comments; Murat Mercan for his assistance with Turkish data coding; Danielle Stephan for language proofreading; and Martin J. Pickering, Mirta Vernice, Robert J. Hartsuiker, and Sarah Bernolet for sharing their stimulus pictures. We are grateful to all the participants who volunteered to take part in this study. Finally, we would like to thank the editors of this special issue and the two anonymous reviewers for their insightful comments.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

On behalf of both authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.


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© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Multilingualism in Society Across the LifespanUniversity of OsloOsloNorway
  2. 2.Department of Foreign Language TeachingUfuk UniversityAnkaraTurkey

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