Hierarchical structure priming from mathematics to two- and three-site relative clause attachment
A number of recent studies found evidence for shared structural representations across different cognitive domains such as mathematics, music, and language. For instance, Scheepers et al. (2011) showed that English speakers’ choices of relative clause (RC) attachments in partial sentences like The tourist guide mentioned the bells of the church that … can be influenced by the structure of previously solved prime equations such as 80–(9 + 1) × 5 (making high RC-attachments more likely) versus 80–9 + 1 × 5 (making low RC-attachments more likely). Using the same sentence completion task, Experiment 1 of the present paper fully replicated this cross-domain structural priming effect in Russian, a morphologically rich language. More interestingly, Experiment 2 extended this finding to more complex three-site attachment configurations and showed that, relative to a structurally neutral baseline prime condition, N1-, N2-, and N3-attachments of RCs in Russian were equally susceptible to structural priming from mathematical equations such as 18+(7+(3 + 11)) × 2, 18 + 7+(3 + 11) × 2, and 18 + 7 + 3 + 11 × 2, respectively. The latter suggests that cross-domain structural priming from mathematics to language must rely on detailed, domain-general representations of hierarchical structure.