Syntactic Flexibility in the Noun: Evidence from Picture Naming


Does syntactic information affect the production of bare nouns? Research into this issue has explored word-specific features (e.g., gender). However, word-independent syntactic distributions may also play a role. For example, studies of word recognition have uncovered strong effects of the diversity of a word's syntactic distribution – its syntactic flexibility – on response times in visual lexical decision. By contrast, studies of sentence production have produced strong but conflicted effects of syntactic flexibility. We propose that syntactic flexibility also affects production of individual words. We reanalyze a database of previously collected timed picture naming data using two novel measures of syntactic flexibility, one based on the relations stemming from the noun, and one based on the relations extending to the noun. Our results show that nouns that project a diverse array of structures are produced faster, and those that are integrated into a diverse array of structures are produced slower.

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