Language Specific and Language General Motivations of Production Choices: A Multi-Clause and Multi-Language Investigation

Jessica L. Montag, Kazunaga Matsuki, Jae Yun Kim, Maryellen C. Macdonald

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Cross-linguistic studies allow for analyses that would be impossible in a single language. To better understand the factors that underlie sentence production, we investigated production choices in main and relative clause production tasks in three languages: English, Japanese and Korean. The effects of both non-linguistic attributes (such as conceptual animacy) and language specific properties (such as word order) were investigated. Japanese and Korean are structurally similar to each other but different from English, which allowed for an investigation of the production consequences of non-linguistic attributes in different typological or word order contexts (when Japanese and Korean speakers make similar production choices that are unlike those of English speakers), as well as production choices that differ despite typological similarity (when Japanese and Korean speakers make different choices). Speakers of all three languages produced more passive utterances when describing animate entities, but the overall rate of passives varied by task and language. Further, the sets of items that were most likely to elicit passives varied by language, with Japanese and Korean speakers more likely to produce passives when patients were adversely affected by the depicted event. These results suggest a number of factors that contribute to language production choices across three languages, and how general cognitive constraints on sentence production may interact with the structure of a specific language.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20
JournalCollabra: Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2017


  • Cross-linguistic analysis
  • Japanese
  • Korean
  • Passives
  • Relative clauses
  • Sentence production

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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