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Journal Article

Can thematic roles leave traces of their places?


Chang,  Franklin
Department of Developmental and Comparative Psychology, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Max Planck Society;

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Chang, F., Bock, K., & Goldberg, A. (2003). Can thematic roles leave traces of their places? Cognition, 90(1), 29-49. doi:10.1016/S0010-0277(03)00123-9.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0010-06AF-F
An important question in the study of language production is the nature of the semantic information that speakers use to create syntactic structures. A common answer to this question assumes that thematic roles help to mediate the mapping from messages to syntax. However, research using structural priming has suggested that the construction of syntactic frames may be insensitive to variations in thematic roles within messages (Cognition 35 (1990) 1; Psychological Review 99 (1992) 150). Because these studies involved structural alternations whose syntax covaries with the order of thematic roles, it is difficult to assess any independent contribution that role information may make to the positioning of phrases. In this study, we primed the order of the roles without changing the syntactic structure of the sentences produced, and found that the order of the roles was influenced by the priming manipulation. This implies that thematic roles or the features that differentiate them are active within the mapping between messages and sentence structures.