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Syntactic or structural priming refers to facilitation in producing or understanding a sentence structure after prior exposure to that structure. For example, children and adults are more likely to produce a passive structure (e.g., The rabbit was chased by the lion) [Page 632]if they have recently produced or heard another person produce a passive structure (e.g., The window was broken by the ball).
This priming effect can be purely structural in that it happens even when two sentences do not share lexical or semantic content. Researchers have used this phenomenon to investigate important questions, such as the nature of syntactic representations in young children learning their native language, the integration of syntactic structures across languages in bilinguals, the relation between priming and long-term learning, and the ...