Tracking lexical and syntactic alignment in conversation

  • Howes, Christine
  • Healey, Patrick G. T.
  • Purver, Matthew
As much empirical work attests, people have a reliable tendency to match their conversational partner’s body movements, speech style, and patterns of language use – amongst other things. A specific version of this tendency, Structural priming, which occurs when prior exposure to a particular linguistic structure facilitates one’s subsequent processing of the same structure, has gained widespread acceptance. Pickering and Garrod (2004) propose that cross-person structural priming is a basic mechanism of conversational coordination – part of an automatic, resource-free alignment mechanism that is the basis for all successful human interaction. We present evidence to the contrary from two analyses of a corpus of ordinary conversation. The first suggests that the level of structural (syntactic) matching is no different from chance, and the second that the observed statistical correlation between prime form and target form may be entirely associated with repetition of lexical form.
Research areas:
Type of Publication:
In Proceedings
Book title:
Proceedings of the 32nd Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society
Portland, OR, USA
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