Shared abstract representation of linguistic structure in bilingual sentence comprehension Academic Article uri icon

abstract

  • Although there is strong evidence for shared abstract grammatical structure in bilingual speakers from studies of sentence production, comparable evidence from studies of comprehension is lacking. Twenty-seven (N = 27) English-German bilingual adults participated in a structural priming study where unambiguous English subject and object relative clause (RC) structures were used to prime corresponding subject and object RC interpretations of structurally ambiguous German RCs. The results showed that English object RCs primed significantly greater object RC interpretations in German in comparison to baseline and subject RC prime conditions, but that English subject RC primes did not change the participants' baseline preferences. This is the first study to report abstract crosslinguistic priming in comprehension. The results specifically suggest that word order overlap supports the integration of syntactic structures from different languages in bilingual speakers, and that these shared representations are used in comprehension as well as production.

publication date

  • August 2015