Structural priming in Turkish genitive-possessive constructions

Bahadır, Gözde
This study addresses the question of the mental representation and processing of language by investigating “structural priming” in Turkish Genitive-Possessive (GEN-POSS) constructions. Structural priming is the facilitating effect of having already experienced a structural form on its subsequent processing. We investigate this phenomenon on a construction pair in Turkish, which shares the same external GEN-POSS morpho-syntactic template despite having distinct grammatical categories. The structures under scrutiny are possessive noun phrases (e.g. “Korsan, [prenses-in(GEN) öykü-sün(POSS.3SG)]-ü hatırladı.” which means: The pirate remembered [the princess’s story].) and embedded noun clauses with nominalized verbs as predicates (e.g. “Korsan, [prenses-in(GEN) gül-düğ(VN)-ün(POSS.3SG)]-ü hatırladı.” which means: The pirate remembered [that the princess (had) laughed/was laughing].) The results of the study which consists of a series of production and comprehension experiments with various methodologies (written sentence completion, self-paced reading and eye-tracking) indicate that structural priming might access the morphosyntactic level of representation in Turkish. Priming seems sensitive to the distinction between the phrasal vs. clausal nature of structures. During the processing of GEN-POSS constructions, the grammatical information regarding the constituents is accessed. Complex forms are further decomposed if processing resources are available. Overall, language production and comprehension seem to operate on the same structural representations but through different mechanisms. In addition, the study also contributes to the understanding of structural priming as a methodological paradigm and to the establishment of a bridge between the processing and theoretical linguistic analysis of Turkish nominalized verbs. To conclude, this study pioneers in exploring structural priming in Turkish and opens way to future research in this line.