Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-54cdcc668b-j9sz6 Total loading time: 1.124 Render date: 2021-03-09T11:24:45.415Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "metricsAbstractViews": false, "figures": false, "newCiteModal": false, "newCitedByModal": true }

Priming a perspective in Spanish monolingual children: The use of syntactic alternatives*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  15 September 2008

Department of Psychology, University of Chicago
Department of Psychology, University of California at Santa Cruz
Departments of Psychology, Cornell University and University of Chicago
Department of Psychology, University of Chicago
E-mail address:


We used a syntactic priming paradigm to show priming effects for active and passive forms in monolingual Spanish-speaking four- and five-year-olds. In a baseline experiment, we examined children's use of the fue-passive form and found it was virtually non-existent in their speech, although they produced important elements of the form. Children used a more frequent Spanish passive form, the subjectless/se-passive. In a priming experiment, we presented children with drawings described using either active or fue-passive sentences. Children then described novel drawings. Priming was induced for active and passive forms; however, children did not produce the fue-passive provided for them. Instead, children used the subjectless/se-passive and what we term the function-passive, which like the fue-passive, emphasize the patient of the action. We argue that children's use of different passive forms suggests they are sensitive to experimenter's input as it relates to scene interpretation and to syntax.

Copyright © 2008 Cambridge University Press

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below.



This paper was supported by a travel stipend awarded to the first author by the University of Chicago's Language Development Training Grant #T32 HD 43729-01A1, PI: Janellen Huttenlocher and the University of Chicago's Psychology Graduate Student Organization. The authors would like to thank Fabiola Montiel for her help with subject recruitment and data collection for this paper.


Berman, R. A. & Slobin, D. I. (1994). Relating events in narrative: A crosslinguistic developmental study. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
Bock, K. (1986). Syntactic persistence in language production. Cognitive Psychology 18, 355–87.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bock, K. (1990). Structure in language: Creating form in talk. American Psychologist 45, 1221–36.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Bock, K. & Loebell, H. (1990). Framing sentences. Cognition 35, 139.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Bock, K., Loebell, H. & Morey, R. (1992). From conceptual roles to structural relations: Bridging the syntactic cleft. Psychological Review 99, 150–71.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Brooks, P. & Tomasello, M. (1999). Young children learn to produce passives with nonce verbs. Developmental Psychology 35, 2944.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Castro, F. (1999). Uso de la gramática española: Avanzado. Madrid: Edelsa Grupo Didascalia, S.A.Google Scholar
Chomsky, N. (1957). Syntactic structures. The Hague: Mouton.Google Scholar
Clark, E. V. & Hecht, B. F. (1983). Comprehension, production, and language acquisition. Annual Review of Psychology 34, 325–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Espinoza, A. M. (1997). Contrastive analysis of the Spanish and English passive voice in scientific prose. English for Specific Purposes 6, 229–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ewer, J. R. & Latorre, G. (1969). A course in basic scientific English. London: Longman.Google Scholar
Flett, S. (2003). Syntactic priming in L1 and L2 Spanish. Paper presented at the 2003 Linguistics Postgraduate Conference, University of Edinburgh.Google Scholar
Givón, T. (1990). Syntax: A functional-typological introducion, II. Amersterdam: Benjamins.Google Scholar
Green, J. N. (1975). On the frequency of passive constructions in modern Spanish. Bulletin of Hispanic Studies LII, 345–62.Google Scholar
Harris, F. N. & Flora, J. A. (1982). Children's use of get passives. Journal of Psycholinguistic Research 11, 297311.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hartsuiker, R. J. & Kolk, H. H. J. (1998). Syntactic persistence in Dutch. Language and Speech 41, 143–84.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Hartsuiker, R. J., Pickering, M. J. & Veltkamp, E. (2004). Is syntax separate or shared between languages? Cross-linguistic syntactic priming in Spanish–English bilinguals. Psychological Science 15, 409414.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Hoff, E. (2003). The specificity of environmental influence: Socioeconomic status affects early vocabulary development via maternal speech. Child Development 74, 1368–78.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Hoff, E. & Naigles, L. (2002). How children use input to acquire a lexicon. Child Development 73, 418–33.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Hoff-Ginsberg, E. (1998). The relation of birth order and socioeconomic status to children's language experience and language development. Applied Psycholinguistics 19, 603629.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Huttenlocher, J., Haight, W., Bryk, A., Seltzer, M. & Lyons, T. (1991). Early vocabulary growth: Relation to language input and gender. Developmental Psychology 27, 236–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Huttenlocher, J., Vasilyeva, M., Cymerman, E. & Levine, S. (2002). Language input and child syntax. Cognitive Psychology 45, 337–74.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Huttenlocher, J., Vasilyeva, M. & Shimpi, P. (2004). Syntactic priming in young children. Journal of Memory and Language 50, 182–95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Jisa, H., Reilly, J. S., Verhoeven, L., Baruch, E. & Rosado, E. (2002). Passive voice constructions in written texts: A cross-linguistic developmental study. Written Language and Literacy 4, 163–81.Google Scholar
Loebell, H. & Bock, K. (2003). Structural priming across languages. Linguistics 41, 791824.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Meijer, P. J. A. & Fox Tree, J. E. (2003). Building syntactic structures in speaking: A bilingual exploration. Experimental Psychology 50, 184–95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Pierce, A. E. (1992). The acquisition of passives in Spanish and the question of A-chain maturation. Language Acquisition 2, 5581.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Savage, C., Lieven, E., Theakston, A. & Tomasello, M. (2003). Testing the abstractness of children's linguistic representations: Lexical and structural priming of syntactic constructions in young children. Developmental Science 6, 557–67.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Shimpi, P. M., Gámez, P. B., Huttenlocher, J. & Vasilyeva, M. (2007). Syntactic priming in 3- and 4-year-old children: Evidence for abstract representations of transitive and dative forms. Developmental Psychology 43, 1334–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Tardif, T., Shatz, M. & Naigles, L. (1997). Caregiver speech and children's use of nouns versus verbs: A comparison of English, Italian, and Mandarin. Journal of Child Language 24, 535–65.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Tolchinsky, L. & Rosado, E. (2005). The effect of literacy, text type, and modality on the use of grammatical means for agency alternation in Spanish. Journal of Pragmatics 37, 209237.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Tomasello, M. (2000). Do young children have adult syntactic competence? Cognition 74, 209253.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Vasilyeva, M., Huttenlocher, J. & Waterfall, H. (2006). Effects of language intervention on syntactic skill levels in preschoolers. Developmental Psychology 42, 164–74.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Vasilyeva, M. & Waterfall, H. (submitted). Beyond syntactic priming: Evidence for activation of discourse function in children.Google Scholar
Whitehurst, G., Ironsmith, M. & Goldfein, M. (1974). Selective imitation of the passive construction through modeling. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology 17, 288302.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Woodcock, R. W. (1991). Woodcock Language Proficiency Battery-Revised: Examiner's manual. Itasca, IL: Riverside Publishing.Google Scholar
Woodcock, R. W. & Muñoz-Sandoval, A. F. (1995). Woodcock Language Proficiency Battery-Revised: Spanish Form. Itasca, IL: Riverside Publishing.Google Scholar

Full text views

Full text views reflects PDF downloads, PDFs sent to Google Drive, Dropbox and Kindle and HTML full text views.

Total number of HTML views: 15
Total number of PDF views: 111 *
View data table for this chart

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 9th March 2021. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Send article to Kindle

To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Priming a perspective in Spanish monolingual children: The use of syntactic alternatives*
Available formats

Send article to Dropbox

To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

Priming a perspective in Spanish monolingual children: The use of syntactic alternatives*
Available formats

Send article to Google Drive

To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

Priming a perspective in Spanish monolingual children: The use of syntactic alternatives*
Available formats

Reply to: Submit a response

Your details

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *