You get bonked on the head. Bad-like. You get anterograde amnesia, which means you can't form new memories (think: "Memento," tattoos optional). Someone gives you a bike. You ride it. You stink at first. But then you get a little better.
The next day, you don't remember getting the bike. You ride it again. You're actually better at riding it than you were the day before. Repeat. Repeat. Soon, you're a perfectly proficient bike rider who, every morning, doesn't recognize his own bike.
Now, lemme ask you: If I teach you a sentence, will you, shortly afterward, retain some concept of: 1. what the sentence meant, 2. what the syntactical structure was, 3. neither, 4. both?
According to a recent study reported in Science Daily, you won't remember the meaning of the sentence or its words. But you will retain some memory of the sentence's syntax.
The researchers say this demonstrates that, unlike word definitions, "syntactic persistence" -- "the tendency for speakers to produce sentences using similar grammatical patterns and rules of language as those they have used before" -- is associated with what's called "procedural memory."
Procedural memory, they say, is one of two types of memory. The other is "declarative memory." Declarative memory is how you remember events and facts, like receiving a bike as a gift. Procedural memory is the place where you store things like knowledge of how to ride a bike. And, according to these researchers, it's also where you store information about how to order words in a sentence.
Why am I writing about this? Well, fresh from a family wedding weekend that involved lots of small talk, too much food, and some truly amazing dance-floor feats by drunk Uncle Al, I can't quite remember how to form original thoughts or craft them into original blog posts.
Now, what's this bike doing here?