Structural priming in the production of Turkish possessive noun phrases and noun clauses

  • Gözde MercanEmail author
  • Annette Hohenberger
Research Paper


We provide an overview of a structural priming study in Turkish and an analysis of the data using logit mixed-effects modeling. As Turkish is an agglutinative language, it constitutes a unique testing ground for the universal and language-specific aspects of structural priming and linguistic representations. Using the idiosyncratic properties of Turkish, this study demonstrates priming effects in written production of Turkish by adult native speakers. The structures of interest are possessive noun phrases (nominal structure) (e.g. Ali[Ayşe-nin ses-in]-i duydu: Ali [Ayşe-GEN voice-3SG.POSS]-ACC heard “Ali heard [Ayşe’s voice]”) and noun clauses (verbal structure) which are embedded complementizer phrases with a genitive subject and a nominalized verbal predicate (e.g. Ali[Ayşe-nin git-tiğ-in]-i duydu: Ali [Ayşe-GEN leave-VN-3SG.POSS]-ACC heard “Ali heard [that Ayşe was leaving/(had) left]”. Certain verbs such as duy- (“to hear”) allow both such nominal and verbal structures as their direct object. The two structures have the same GEN-POSS morphology, but different inner constituents. Participants completed sentence target fragments (which are equally likely to be completed with either type under normal circumstances) with more nominal structures after nominal primes and with more verbal structures after verbal primes, which indicates a significant priming effect. Structural priming accesses the inner nominal vs. verbal constituents of these structures and is sensitive to the distinction between phrases and clauses. Despite their identical external morphological template, the two structures are represented distinctly and not as a single, general GEN-POSS form in Turkish native speakers’ minds.


Turkish Morpho-syntax Structural priming Possessive NPs Noun clauses Genitive-possessive 



This research was supported by the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TÜBİTAK) through the BİDEB 2211 National Doctoral Scholarship granted to the first author for her PhD studies at the Middle East Technical University. We would like to thank Deniz Zeyrek Bozşahin, Cem Bozşahin, Aslı Göksel, Maria Polinsky and Ayşe Betül Toplu for their helpful comments. This study is based on a certain part of the data presented in the first author’s unpublished doctoral dissertation (Bahadır 2012) and on the proceedings paper written in Turkish by Bahadır and Hohenberger (2012) on the basis of their presentation at the International Conference on Turkish Linguistics (ICTL) in 2010 (Bahadır and Hohenberger 2010). The paper was presented in English with the title “Structural Priming in Turkish Genitive-Possessive Constructions” at the conference, then appeared in the conference proceedings in Turkish in 2012 with title “Türkçedeki ilgi-iyelik yapılarında yapısal hazırlama”. Furthermore, some versions and parts of the study were also presented at various conferences such as the 22nd CUNY Conference on Human Sentence Processing [Bahadır and Hohenberger (2009a). Morpho-syntactic Processing and Priming in Turkish: Noun Phrases vs. Noun Clauses. Poster presented at 22nd CUNY, UC Davis, CA, USA, 26–28 March, 2009], the 23rd National Linguistics Convention (UDK) [Bahadır and Hohenberger (2009b). Türkçenin Biçimdizimsel İşlemlenmesinde Yapısal Hazırlama. Paper presented at 23rd UDK, Eastern Mediterranean University, Famagusta, Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, 14-15 May, 2009] and the 2nd Mediterranean Graduate Meeting in Linguistics (MGML) [Bahadır (2009). Syntactic Representations in Language Production and Comprehension: Insights from Structural Priming. Paper presented at 2nd MGML, Mersin, Turkey, 12–13 March, 2009]. We are grateful to the audiences of ICTL 2010, CUNY, UDK and MGML 2009, the editors of the 2012 Proceedings of ICTL 2010 and all the volunteers who participated in our study. We also thank the editors of this special issue and the three anonymous reviewers for their constructive 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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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Cognitive ScienceMiddle East Technical UniversityAnkaraTurkey
  2. 2.Institute of Cognitive ScienceOsnabrück UniversityOsnabrückGermany

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