Structural divergence in dialogue

  • Healey, Patrick G. T.
  • Purver, Matthew
  • Howes, Christine
It is often observed that people tend to match each others body movements, speech style, and patterns of language use during conversation. Recently, it has been proposed that ‘structural priming’ should be added to this list. Structural priming occurs when processing of a linguistic structure is facilitated by prior exposure to the same structure. The main evidence for these effects comes from experimental studies of individuals processing sequences of sentences. However, the Interactive Alignment Model has proposed that cross-person structural priming is a part of an automatic, resource-free priming mechanism that helps to underpin all successful human interaction. We present evidence from a corpus analysis that, in fact, people tend to diverge in their use of syntactic structures in ordinary conversation. Our results are consistent with a view of conversation as an activity in which people collaborate to move each topic forward by repeating some of the same words but placing them in different contexts.
Research areas:
Type of Publication:
In Proceedings
Book title:
Architectures and Mechanisms for Language Processing
York, UK
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