Two experiments using a sentence recall task tested the effect of animacy on syntactic processing in Japanese sentence production. Experiment 1 and 2 showed that when Japanese native speakers recalled transitive sentences, they were more likely to assign animate entities earlier positions in the sentence than inanimate entities. In addition, Experiment 2 showed that they were more likely to recall animate entities than inanimate entities as sentence subjects in active and passive sentences. Thus conceptual information influenced both the way in which grammatical functions were assigned and choice of word order. We consider the implications of these findings for theories of language production.
Tanaka, M. N., Branigan, H. P., McLean, J. F., & Pickering, M. J. (2011). Conceptual influences on word order and voice in sentence production: evidence from Japanese. Journal of Memory and Language, 65(3), 318-330. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jml.2011.04.009