Tracking the dative alternation in conversation

  • Howes, Christine
  • Healey, Patrick G. T.
  • Purver, Matthew
The strongest evidence for specifically structural alignment in dialogue comes from experimental studies of task-oriented dialogue and corpus studies that track frequency of use of particular constructions. However, the data used in these studies is not representative of ordinary dialogue. We therefore conducted two experiments which tested the degree of match of dative alternation structures in the Diachronic Corpus of Present-Day Spoken English, a corpus of naturally occurring dialogue data. We compared this measure to control conditions for the same genuine conversational data manipulated to create fake dialogues from turns actually occurring in different conversations. In ordinary conversation, we found no unequivocal evidence of syntactic priming effects for the dative alternation. Individuals do tend to repeat the same structure, however, they are no more likely to converge on the same version of each structure with their conversational partners than would be expected by chance. In addition, the overall likelihood of a match in syntactic structure across turns appears to be accounted for by the repetition of specific words.
Research areas:
Type of Publication:
In Proceedings
Book title:
Structural Alternations: Speaker and Hearer Perspectives
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