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In two cross-linguistic priming experiments with native German speakers of L2 English, we investigated the role of constituent order and level of embedding in cross-linguistic structural priming. In both experiments, significant priming effects emerged only if prime and target were similar with regard to constituent order and also situated on the same level of embedding. We discuss our results on the basis of two current theoretical accounts of cross-linguistic priming, and conclude that neither an account based on combinatorial nodes nor an account assuming that constituent order is directly responsible for the priming effect can fully explain our data pattern. We suggest an account that explains cross-linguistic priming through a hierarchical tree representation. This representation is computed during processing of the prime, and can influence the formulation of a target sentence only when the structural features specified in it are grammatically correct in the target sentence.
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