The influence of sentential position on noun phrase structure priming

Alissa Melinger, Alexandra A. Cleland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


This article explores the interaction between global sentence context and local syntactic decision-making. Specifically, four noun phrase (NP) structural priming experiments investigated whether the position of an NP within a sentence increased speakers’ tendency to repeat primed structure. We crossed the position of the NP with the structure of the NP, such that NPs could be sentence initial or final in prime sentences. We further manipulated whether the to-be-modified target NP was sentence initial or final. Structural persistence effects were consistently observed, but there was no influence of parallel position. Rather, sentence initial NP primes had a stronger influence on subsequent syntactic decisions than sentence final primes, suggesting a primacy effect. Sentence initial target NPs contributed to this primacy effect while sentence final target NPs did not. We argue that this primacy effect arises as the result of greater processing demands and resources for early compared to late sentence constituents as well as deeper encoding and more focused attention when processing the beginnings of sentences.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2211-2235
Number of pages25
JournalQuarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology
Issue number11
Early online date7 Jul 2011
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • Priming
  • Syntax
  • Noun phrase
  • Language production
  • Primacy


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