Sentence production requires mapping preverbal messages onto linguistic structures. Because sentences are normally built incrementally, the information encoded in a sentence-initial increment is critical for explaining how the mapping process starts and for predicting its timecourse. Two experiments tested whether and when speakers prioritize encoding of different types of information at the outset of formulation by comparing production of descriptions of transitive events (e.g., A dog is chasing the mailman) that differed on two dimensions: the ease of naming individual characters and the ease of apprehending the event gist (i.e., encoding the relational structure of the event). To additionally manipulate ease of encoding, speakers described the target events after receiving lexical primes (facilitating naming; Experiment 1) or structural primes (facilitating generation of a linguistic structure; Experiment 2). Both properties of the pictured events and both types of primes influenced the form of target descriptions and the timecourse of formulation: character-specific variables increased the probability of speakers encoding one character with priority at the outset of formulation, while the ease of encoding event gist and of generating a syntactic structure increased the likelihood of early encoding of information about both characters. The results show that formulation is flexible and highlight some of the conditions under which speakers might employ different planning strategies.
- Language production
- Sentence planning
- Message and sentence formulation
- Lexical priming
- Structural Priming