Finding your voice: Voice-specific effects in Tagalog reveal the limits of word order priming

Garcia, R., Roeser, J., & Kidd, E. (2023). Finding your voice: Voice-specific effects in Tagalog reveal the limits of word order priming. Cognition, 236: 105424. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2023.105424.
The current research investigated structural priming in Tagalog, a symmetrical voice language containing rich verbal morphology that results in changes in mapping between syntactic positions and thematic roles. This grammatically rare feature, which results in multiple transitive structures that are balanced in terms of the grammatical status of their arguments, provides the opportunity to test whether word order priming is sensitive to the voice morphology of the verb. In three sentence priming experiments (Ns = 64), we manipulated whether the target-verb prompt carried the same voice as the verb in the prime sentence. In all experiments, priming occurred only when the prime and target had the same voice morphology. Additionally, we found that the strength of word order priming depends on voice: stronger priming effects were found for the voice morpheme associated with a more flexible word order. The findings are consistent with learning-based accounts where language-specific representations for syntax emerge across developmental time. We discuss the implications of these results in the context of Tagalog's grammar. The results reveal the value of crosslinguistic data for theory-testing, and the value of structural priming in determining the representational nature of linguistic structure.
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