Persistent Structural Priming During Online Second-Language Comprehension

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Abstract

We report 2 self-paced reading experiments investigating the longevity of structural priming effects in comprehending reduced relative clauses among adult Chinese-speaking learners of English. Experiment 1 showed that structural priming occurred both when prime and target sentences were immediately adjacent and when they were separated by 1 or 2 filler sentences of unrelated structures. Moreover, the magnitude of the priming effect held constant across different lag conditions. Experiment 2 replicated the persistent priming effect and ruled out the possibility that the effect was due to verb repetition priming. Taken together, the current results suggest that recent experience with a given structure can have relatively long-lived facilitation effect on the language-processing system in second-language learners. As such, structural priming may serve as a learning mechanism for second-language speakers.

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