Anchoring comprehension in linguistic precedents

Barr, D.J. and Keysar, B. (2002) Anchoring comprehension in linguistic precedents. Journal of Memory and Language, 46(2), pp. 391-418. (doi: 10.1006/jmla.2001.2815)

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Past research has shown that when speakers refer to the same referent multiple times, they tend to standardize their descriptions by establishing linguistic precedents. In three experiments, we show that listeners reduce uncertainty in comprehension by taking advantage of these precedents. We tracked listeners' eye movements in a referential communication task and found that listeners identified referents more quickly when specific precedents existed than when there were none. Furthermore, we found that listeners expected speakers to adhere to precedents even in contexts where it would lead to referential overspecification. Finally, we provide evidence that the benefits of linguistic precedents are independent of mutual knowledge—listeners were not more likely to benefit from precedents when they were mutually known than when they were not. We conclude that listeners use precedents simply because they are available, not because they are mutually known.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Barr, Dr Dale
Authors: Barr, D.J., and Keysar, B.
Subjects:B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Psychology & Neuroscience
Journal Name:Journal of Memory and Language
Published Online:27 February 2002

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