Advertisement

Journal of Cultural Cognitive Science

, Volume 3, Supplement 1, pp 39–64 | Cite as

Mapping thematic roles onto grammatical functions in sentence production: evidence from structural priming in Italian

  • Mirta VerniceEmail author
  • Robert J. Hartsuiker
Research Paper

Abstract

Four experiments in Italian investigated how conceptual entities are mapped onto grammatical functions. By orthogonally manipulating the animacy of the elements partaking to a transitive event, we tested two views of the theme to function mapping process. Under the function mapping account, this mapping is a competition for the syntactic functions between concepts associated to different thematic roles (e.g., agent, patient), with animate entities and agents most likely to be mapped onto subject function (Bock and Levelt in handbook of psycholinguistics, Academic Press, San Diego, pp 945–984, 1994). The argument selection principle assumes that thematic roles can be decomposed into more primitive features, namely Proto-Roles (Dowty in language 67(3):547–619, 1991). Given a transitive event, the concept that possesses the largest number of semantic features prototypically associated with the agent is realized as the subject; the concept involving more patient-like entailments is realized as object. In Experiment 1, participants rated the Proto-Roles properties of the concepts partaking to transitive events. Experiment 2 involved a picture naming task of the same transitive events. Structural priming was used in Experiments 3 and 4 to influence the overall distribution of active and passive responses. In this way, the two views could be contrasted under different levels of bias towards the active. The results support the argument selection view under which theme to function mapping is influenced not only by the conceptual accessibility of the concepts but also by the mismatch between the semantic features of the argument (its animacy) and the thematic representation of the event. The data further generalize the evidence for structural priming to Italian.

Keywords

Thematic roles Animacy Functional mapping Proto-roles 

Notes

Compliance ethical standards

Conflict of interest

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

References

  1. Alba-Salas, J. (2004). Fare light verb constructions and Italian causatives: Understanding the differences. Rivista di Linguistica,16, 283–323.Google Scholar
  2. Austin, J. L. (1962). How to do things with words. Oxford: Clarendon.Google Scholar
  3. Baayen, R. H. (2008). Analyzing linguistic data: A practical introduction to statistics using R. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Barr, D. J., Levy, R., Scheepers, C., & Tily, H. J. (2013). Random effects structures for confirmatory hypothesis testing: Keep it maximal. Journal of Memory and Language,68(3), 255–278.Google Scholar
  5. Bates, D., Kliegl, R., Vasishth, S., & Baayen, H. (2015). Parsimonious mixed models. https://arxiv.org/abs/1506.04967.
  6. Bernolet, S., Hartsuiker, R., & Collina, S. (2016). The persistence of syntactic priming revisited. Journal of Memory and Language,91, 99–116.Google Scholar
  7. Bock, J. K. (1982). Toward a cognitive psychology of syntax: Information processing contributions to sentence formulation. Psychological Review,89(1), 1–47.Google Scholar
  8. Bock, J. K. (1986). Syntactic persistence in language production. Cognitive Psychology,18, 355–387.Google Scholar
  9. Bock, J. K. (1987). Coordinating words and syntax in speech plans. In A. Ellis (Ed.), Progress in the psychology of language. London: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  10. Bock, K., Dell, G. S., Chang, F., & Onishi, K. H. (2007). Persistent structural priming from language comprehension to language production. Cognition,104, 437–458.Google Scholar
  11. Bock, K., & Griffin, Z. M. (2000). The persistence of structural priming: Transient activation or implicit learning? Journal of Experimental Psychology General,129, 177–192.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Bock, J. K., & Levelt, W. J. (1994). Language production: Grammatical encoding. In M. A. Gernsbacher (Ed.), Handbook of psycholinguistics (pp. 945–984). San Diego: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  13. Bock, K. J., & Loebell, H. (1990). Framing sentences. Cognition,35, 1–39.Google Scholar
  14. Bock, J. K., Loebell, H., & Morey, R. (1992). From conceptual roles to structural relations: Bridging the syntactic cleft. Psychological Review,99, 150–171.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Bock, J. K., & Warren, R. K. (1985). Conceptual accessibility and syntactic structure in sentence formulation. Cognition,21, 47–67.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Branigan, H.P, & Feleki. (1999). Conceptual accessibility and serial order in Greek speech production. In Proceedings of the 21st cognitive science society conference, Vancouver.Google Scholar
  17. Branigan, H. P., Pickering, M. J., Liversedge, S. P., Stewart, A. J., & Urbach, T. P. (1995). Syntactic priming: Investigating the mental representation of language. Journal of Psycholinguistic Research,24, 489–506.Google Scholar
  18. Branigan, H. P., Pickering, M. J., & Tanaka, M. (2008). Contributions of animacy to grammatical function assignment and word order during production. Lingua,118, 172–189.Google Scholar
  19. Cai, Z. G., Pickering, M. J., & Branigan, H. P. (2012). Mapping concepts to syntax: Evidence from structural priming in Mandarin Chinese. Journal of Memory and Language,66(4), 833–849.Google Scholar
  20. Christianson, K., & Ferreira, F. (2005). Conceptual accessibility and sentence production in a free word order language (Odawa). Cognition,98, 105–135.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Chomsky, N. (1965). Aspects of the theory of syntax. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  22. Cleland, A. A., & Pickering, M. J. (2003). The use of lexical and syntactic information in language production: Evidence from the priming of noun-phrase structure. Journal of Memory and Language,49, 214–230.Google Scholar
  23. Czypionka, A., & Eulitz, C. (2018). Lexical case marking affects the processing of animacy in simple verbs, but not particle verbs: Evidence from event-related potentials. Glossa A Journal of General Linguistics,3, 1.Google Scholar
  24. Development Core Team, R. (2018). R: A language and environment for statistical computing. Vienna: R Foundation for Statistical Computing.Google Scholar
  25. Dik, S. C. (1997). The theory of functional grammar. Part 1: The structure of the clause. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.Google Scholar
  26. Dixon, P. (2008). Models of accuracy in repeated-measures designs. Journal of Memory and Language,59(4), 447–456.Google Scholar
  27. Dowty, D. R. (1979). Word meaning and montague grammar. Dordrecht: Reidel.Google Scholar
  28. Dowty, D. (1991). Thematic proto-roles and argument selection. Language,67(3), 547–619.Google Scholar
  29. Eager, C., & Roy, J. (2017). Mixed effects models are sometimes terrible. https://arxiv.org/abs/1701.04858.
  30. Ferreira, V. S. (2003). The persistence of optional complementizer production: Why saying “that” is not saying “that” at all. Journal of Memory and Language, 48, 379–398.Google Scholar
  31. Ferreira, V. S., & Dell, G. S. (2000). Effect of ambiguity and lexical availability on syntactic and lexical production. Cognitive Psychology,40(4), 296–340.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  32. Ferretti, T., McRae, K., & Hatherell, A. (2001). Integrating verbs, situation schemas, and thematic role concepts. Journal of Memory and Language,44(4), 516–547.Google Scholar
  33. Fillmore, C. (1968). The case for case. In E. Bach & R. Harms (Eds.), Universals in linguistic theory (pp. 1–90). New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston.Google Scholar
  34. Givon, T. (2001). Syntax. An introduction. Amsterdam: Benjamins.Google Scholar
  35. Goldberg, A. E. (1995). Constructions: A construction grammar approach to argument structure. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  36. Griffin, Z. M., & Weinstein-Tull, J. (2003). Conceptual structure modulates structural priming in the production of complex sentences. Journal of Memory and Language,49, 537–555.PubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  37. Hartsuiker, R. J., & Bernolet, S. (2017). The development of shared syntax in second language learning. Bilingualism Language and Cognition,20, 219–234.Google Scholar
  38. Hartsuiker, R. J., & Kolk, H. H. J. (1998a). Syntactic persistence in Dutch. Language and Speech,41, 143–184.PubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  39. Hartsuiker, R. J., & Kolk, H. H. J. (1998b). Syntactic facilitation in agrammatic sentence production. Brain and Language,62, 221–254.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  40. Hartsuiker, R. J., Kolk, H. J., & Huiskamp, P. (1999). Priming word order in sentence production. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology,52, 129–147.Google Scholar
  41. Hartsuiker, R. J., Pickering, M. J., & Veltkamp, E. (2004). Is syntax separate or shared between languages? Cross-linguistic syntactic priming in Spanish/English bilinguals. Psychological Science,15, 409–414.Google Scholar
  42. Hartsuiker, R. J., & Westenberg, C. (2000). Word order priming in written and spoken sentence production. Cognition,75, 27–39.Google Scholar
  43. Igoa Gonzales, J. M. (1996). The relationship between conceptualization and formulation processes in sentence production: Some evidence from Spanish. In M. Carreiras, J. E. Garcia-Albea, & N. Sebastian-Galles (Eds.), Language processing in Spanish (pp. 305–351). Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  44. Jackendoff, R. (1972). Semantic interpretation in generative grammar. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  45. Jackendoff, R. (1987). The status of thematic relations in a linguistic theory. Linguistic Inquiry,18, 369–411.Google Scholar
  46. Jackendoff, R. (1990). Semantic structures. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  47. Jackendoff, R. (2002). Foundations of language. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  48. Kako, E. (2006). Thematic role properties of subjects and objects. Cognition,101, 1–42.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  49. Kaschak, M. P. (2007). Long-term structural priming affects subsequent patterns of language production. Memory and Cognition,35(5), 925–937.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  50. Kaschak, M. P., Kutta, T. J., & Jones, J. L. (2011a). Structural priming as implicit learning: Cumulative priming effects and individual differences. Psychonomic Bulletin and Review,18(6), 1133–1139.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  51. Kaschak, M. P., Kutta, T. J., & Schatschneider, C. (2011b). Long-term cumulative structural priming persists for (at least) a week. Memory and Cognition,39, 381–388.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  52. Kaschak, M. P., Loney, R. A., & Borreggine, K. L. (2006). Recent experience affects the strength of structural priming. Cognition,99, B73–B82.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  53. Keenan, E. L., & Comrie, B. (1977). Noun phrase accessibility and universal grammar. Linguistic Inquiry,8, 63–99.Google Scholar
  54. Kelly, M. H., Bock, J. K., & Keil, F. C. (1986). Prototypicality in a linguistic context: Effect on sentence structure. Journal of Memory and Language,25, 59–74.Google Scholar
  55. Kuznetsova, A., Brockhoff, P. B., & Christensen, R. H. B. (2017). LmerTest package: Tests in linear mixed effects models. Journal of Statistical Software,82(13), 1–26.Google Scholar
  56. Levelt, W. J. (1989). Speaking: From intention to articulation. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  57. Levelt, W. (1999). A blueprint of the speaker. In C. Brown & P. Hagoort (Eds.), The neurocognition of language (chapter 4). Oxford: Oxford Press.Google Scholar
  58. Levin, B., & Rappaport Hovav, M. (2005). Argument realization. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  59. Loebell, H., & Bock, K. (2003). Structural priming across languages. Linguistics,41, 791–824.Google Scholar
  60. Lowder, M. W., & Gordon, P. C. (2012). The pistol that injured the cowboy: Difficulty with inanimate subject-verb integration is reduced by structural separation. Journal of Memory and Language,66(4), 819–832.Google Scholar
  61. Lowder, M. W., & Gordon, P. C. (2015). Natural forces as agents: Reconceptualizing the animate-inanimate distinction. Cognition,136, 85–90.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  62. Mahowald, K., James, A., Futrell, R., & Gibson, E. (2016). A meta-analysis of syntactic priming in language production. Journal of Memory and Language,91, 5–27.Google Scholar
  63. McDonald, J. L., Bock, J. K., & Kelly, M. H. (1993). Word and world order: Semantic, phonological, and metrical determinants of serial position. Cognitive Psychology,25, 188–230.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  64. McRae, K., Ferretti, T. R., & Amyote, L. (1997). Thematic roles as verb-specific concepts. Language and Cognitive Processes,12, 137–176.Google Scholar
  65. McRae, K., Spivey-Knowlton, M. J., & Tanenhaus, M. K. (1998). Modeling the influence of thematic fit (and other constraints) in on-line sentence comprehension. Journal of Memory and Language,38, 283–312.Google Scholar
  66. Nieuwland, M. S., Martin, A. E., & Carreiras, M. (2013). Event-related brain potential evidence for animacy processing asymmetries during sentence comprehension. Brain and Language,126(2), 151–158.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  67. Paczynski, M., & Kuperberg, G. R. (2011). Electrophysiological evidence for use of the animacy hierarchy, but not thematic role assignment, during verb-argument processing. Language and Cognitive Processes,26(9), 1402–1456.PubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  68. Palan, S., & Schitter, C. (2018). Prolific.ac—a subject pool for online experiments. Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Finance,17, 22–27.Google Scholar
  69. Pickering, M. J., & Branigan, H. P. (1998). The representation of verbs: Evidence from syntactic priming in language production. Journal of Memory and Language,39, 633–651.Google Scholar
  70. Pickering, M. J., Branigan, H. P., Cleland, A. A., & Stewart, A. J. (2000). Activation of syntactic information during language production. Journal of Psycholinguistic Research,29, 205–216.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  71. Pickering, M. J., & Ferreira, V. (2008). Structural priming: A critical review. Psychological Bulletin,134(3), 427–459.PubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  72. Potter, M. C., & Lombardi, L. (1998). Syntactic priming in immediate recall of sentences. Journal of Memory and Language,38, 265–282.Google Scholar
  73. Prat-Sala, M., & Branigan, H. P. (2000). Discourse constraints on syntactic processing in language production: A cross-linguistic study in English and Spanish. Journal of Memory and Language,42, 168–182.Google Scholar
  74. Rothstein, S. (2004). Structuring events. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.Google Scholar
  75. Scheepers, C. (2003). Syntactic priming of relative clause attachments: Persistence of structural configuration in sentence production. Cognition,89, 179–205.PubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  76. Searle, J. R. (1969). Speech acts: An essay in the philosophy of language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  77. Tanaka, M., Branigan, H. P., McLean, J. F., & Pickering, M. P. (2011). Conceptual influences on word order and voice in sentence production: Evidence from Japanese. Journal of Memory and Language,65, 318–330.Google Scholar
  78. Thothathiri, M., & Snedeker, J. (2010). The role of thematic roles in sentence processing: Evidence from structural priming in young children. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/277850501_The_Role_of_Thematic_Roles_in_Sentence_Processing_Evidence_from_Structural_Priming_in_Young_Children. Accessed 4 Oct 2019.
  79. Van Berkum, J. J. A. (2009). The neuropragmatics of ‘simple’ utterance comprehension: An ERP review. In U. Sauerland & K. Yatsushiro (Eds.), Semantics and pragmatics: From experiment to theory (pp. 276–313). Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  80. Van Nice, K. Y., & Dietrich, R. (2003). Task-sensitivity of animacy effects: Evidence from German picture descriptions. Linguistics,5, 825–849.Google Scholar
  81. Vandepitte, S., & Hartsuiker, R. J. (2011). Metonymic language use as a student translation problem: Towards a controlled psycholinguistic investigation. In C. Alvstad, A. Hild, & E. Tiselius (Eds.), Methods and strategies of process research: Integrative approaches in translation studies (pp. 67–92). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.Google Scholar
  82. Vernice, M., Matta, M., Tironi, M., Caccia, M., Lombardi, E., Guasti, M.T., Sarti, D., Lang, M. (submitted). An online tool to assess sentence comprehension in teenagers at risk for school exclusion: Evidence from L2 Italian students. Frontiers in Psychology.Google Scholar
  83. Ziegler, J., Bencini, G., Goldberg, A., & Snedeker, J. (2019). How abstract is syntax? Evidence from structural priming. Cognition,193, 104045.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  84. Ziegler, J., & Snedeker, J. (2018). How broad are thematic roles? Evidence from structural priming. Cognition,179, 221–240.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  85. Ziegler, J., Snedeker, J., & Wittenberg, E. (2018). Event structures drive semantic structural priming, not thematic roles: Evidence form idioms and light verbs. Cognitive Science,42(8), 2918–2949.PubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Milano-BicoccaMilanItaly
  2. 2.Ghent UniversityGhentBelgium

Personalised recommendations