ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

心理学报 ›› 2023, Vol. 55 ›› Issue (10): 1608-1619.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2023.01608

• 研究报告 • 上一篇    下一篇


王阳1,2, 张琳爽1, 崔楠楠1, 吴岩1,3()   

  1. 1东北师范大学心理学院, 长春 130024
    2新疆师范大学心智发展与学习科学重点实验室, 乌鲁木齐 830017
    3吉林省认知神经科学与脑智发展重点实验室, 长春 130024
  • 收稿日期:2022-11-28 发布日期:2023-07-26 出版日期:2023-10-25
  • 通讯作者: 吴岩, E-mail:
  • 基金资助:

The role of syntactic structure and verb overlap in spoken sentence production of 4- to 6-year-olds: Evidence from syntactic priming in Mandarin

WANG Yang1,2, ZHANG Linshuang1, CUI Nannan1, WU Yan1,3()   

  1. 1School of Psychology, Northeast Normal University, Changchun 130024, China
    2Key Laboratory of Mental Development and Learning Science, Xinjiang Normal University, Urumchi 830017, China
    3Jilin Provincial Key Laboratory of Cognitive Neuroscience and Brain Development, Changchun 130024, China
  • Received:2022-11-28 Online:2023-07-26 Published:2023-10-25


4~6岁是幼儿句法习得的关键期, 此阶段的句法表征是否受到词汇信息的影响尚存理论争议。采用句法启动范式中的句子重复−图片描述任务, 以句法选择比率为指标, 借助汉语及物结构(主动句、把字句和被动句), 分析了幼儿在句子产生时句法结构和动词重复的作用。结果显示三种句法结构都诱发了抽象启动效应, 证实幼儿在习得汉语句法知识时不依赖词汇信息。同时, 动词重复只有在大龄幼儿(5~6岁)主动句的启动中才能提升启动量, 表明动词增强效应与幼儿年龄以及句法结构偏好有关。此外, 因句法结构偏好差异, 三种结构间产生了逆偏好效应。以上结果可以从内隐学习理论的角度进行解释。

关键词: 幼儿, 句子产生, 抽象启动效应, 词汇增强/依赖效应, 句法结构偏好


The period between the ages of 4 and 6 is crucial for young children to develop their capacity for spoken sentence production. The interplay between syntactic and lexical information in children's sentence production has garnered attention in the field of language acquisition. Recently, experts in Indo-European languages have begun to utilize the priming paradigm to address this question; however, theoretical conflicts remain.

Unlike Indo-European languages, Mandarin, as an isolating language, relies on function words and word order instead of morphological changes to express grammar. Some researchers have even proposed that Chinese syntax is a language usage and there is no syntactic structure separate from semantics. Consequently, we intend to evaluate pre-existing theories by scrutinizing the syntactic representation in four-to-six-year-old Mandarin-speaking children. To examine the effects of syntactic structure and verb repetition on the syntactic representation of Chinese in young children, we employed a syntactic priming paradigm with sentence repetition and image description tasks using the particular transitive structures of Chinese (SVO, SbaOV, and SbeiOV) as the corpus. A total of 77 preschool children with an average age of 4.4 years were enrolled in the experiment. The study involved the manipulation of Prime types (SVO, SbaOV, SbeiOV, and baseline) and Verb types (no overlap versus overlap). The dependent variable was the ratio of syntactic choices.

The results of the study showed that abstract priming effects are induced by the three syntactic structures, irrespective of whether the verb overlaps or not. Especially, when young children begin a specific sentence pattern, such as an SbaOV structure, they tend to formulate an SbaOV structure in the target sentence rather than an SVO or SbeiOV structure. This implies that the development of syntactic knowledge does not rely on lexical information. Additionally, it is worth mentioning that despite the absence of an increase in priming strength in SbaOV or SbeiOV structures with verb overlap, the probability of older children (5-6 years old) opting for an SOV structure during priming is augmented. This finding implies that the emergence of verb boost effects is influenced by the age of children and their syntactic structural preferences. Moreover, the priming effect of non-preferential structures is more powerful than that of preferential structures regardless of whether the verb overlaps, resulting in a reverse preferential effect.

To summarize, the acquisition of syntax in Chinese children aligns with the Implicit Learning Theory, whereby they exhibit abstract priming effects stemming from their anticipation of error estimates. Conversely, the lexical boost effect is determined by their working memory. Simultaneously, this research challenges both the RA-Early and RA-Later syntactic models, which rely on the Residual Activation Theory. We believe that children’s syntactic representations may not emerge exclusively from the syntactic structures and node links between verbs. In essence, it is not feasible to induce both abstract priming and lexical reinforcement effects in young children during the early stages of cognitive development. Furthermore, establishing lexical dependency effects before generating abstract representations is not a prerequisite.

Key words: children, sentence production, abstract priming effect, lexical boost/dependent effect, syntactic structure preference