Syntactic constructions as retrieval plans

Kempen, G. (1976). Syntactic constructions as retrieval plans. British Journal of Psychology, 67(2), 149-160. doi:10.1111/j.2044-8295.1976.tb01505.x.
Four probe latency experiments show that the ‘constituent boundary effect’ (transitions between constituents are more difficult than within constituents) is a retrieval and not a storage phenomenon. The experimental logic used is called paraphrastic reproduction: after verbatim memorization of some sentences, subjects were instructed to reproduce them both in their original wording and in the form of sentences that, whilst preserving the original meaning, embodied different syntactic constructions. Syntactic constructions are defined as pairs which consist of a pattern of conceptual information and a syntactic scheme, i.e. a sequence of syntactic word categories and function words. For example, the sequence noun + finite intransitive main verb (‘John runs’) expresses a conceptual actor-action relationship. It is proposed that for each overlearned and simple syntactic construction there exists a retrieval plan which does the following. It searches through the long-term memory information that has been designated as the conceptual content of the utterance(s) to be produced, looking for a token of its conceptual pattern. The retrieved information is then cast into the format of its syntactic scheme. The organization of such plans is held responsible for the constituent boundary effect.
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