Experience-dependent plasticity in the language processing systems. Consequences for theories of language representation and use

a seminar by Giulia Bencini (Department of Linguistics and Comparative Cultural Studies, Ca Foscari University Venice)

  • Date: 31 MARCH 2023  from 11:00 to 13:00

  • Event location: Teaching Hub - TH11 - In presence and online event

  • Type: Seminars

Structural (aka syntactic) priming is the tendency for speakers to re-use a previously experienced sentence structure – speakers primed with a sentence in the passive voice such as “the city was flooded by the water” will be more likely to describe a picture of a dog chasing a man as “the man is being chased by the dog” than if they had been primed with the semantically equivalent “the water flooded the city”. Structural priming paradigms have provided a wealth of information about the representations and processes involved in language use (see Branigan and Pickering, 2017 for an overview).  In this talk I present structural priming data from studies with adults, first and second language learners, speakers with aphasia and speakers with cognitive decline. Taken together, these studies suggest life-long experience dependent plasticity in the language processing systems in response to concentrated and structured linguistic input. I will review the findings in light of different views of the relationship between theories of language representation and language use, and implicit vs. explicit mechanisms in language learning. 

Branigan, H. P., & Pickering, M. J. (2017). An experimental approach to linguistic representation. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 40. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0140525X16002028