Structural priming in the production of Turkish possessive noun phrases and noun clauses

We provide an overview of a structural priming study in Turkish and an analysis of the data using logit mixed-effects modeling. As Turkish is an agglutinative language, it constitutes a unique testing ground for the universal and language-specific aspects of structural priming and linguistic representations. Using the idiosyncratic properties of Turkish, this study demonstrates priming effects in written production of Turkish by adult native speakers. The structures of interest are possessive noun phrases (nominal structure) (e.g. Ali[Ayşe-nin ses-in]-i duydu: Ali [Ayşe-GEN voice-3SG.POSS]-ACC heard “Ali heard [Ayşe’s voice]”) and noun clauses (verbal structure) which are embedded complementizer phrases with a genitive subject and a nominalized verbal predicate (e.g. Ali[Ayşe-nin git-tiğ-in]-i duydu: Ali [Ayşe-GEN leave-VN-3SG.POSS]-ACC heard “Ali heard [that Ayşe was leaving/(had) left]”. Certain verbs such as duy- (“to hear”) allow both such nominal and verbal structures as their direct object. The two structures have the same GEN-POSS morphology, but different inner constituents. Participants completed sentence target fragments (which are equally likely to be completed with either type under normal circumstances) with more nominal structures after nominal primes and with more verbal structures after verbal primes, which indicates a significant priming effect. Structural priming accesses the inner nominal vs. verbal constituents of these structures and is sensitive to the distinction between phrases and clauses. Despite their identical external morphological template, the two structures are represented distinctly and not as a single, general GEN-POSS form in Turkish native speakers’ minds.