Branigan et. Al

Branigan et al.
Do participants of a conversation
syntactically converge?
• Research has already shown that speakers
co-ordinate on the semantic and lexical
– Maze study: participants converged on
particular types of descriptions/lexical
• I.e. ‘path between 2 points’/‘box’
• Co-ordination: Observable convergence in
participants linguistic behavior without
necessarily being intentional
– Helps listeners to correctly understand a
speaker’s meaning
– Helps speaker by decreasing computational
– Cuts down on ambiguity
• Speakers can use 2 different grammatical
structures to describe one thing.
– ‘x verbing y to the z’ or ‘x verbing z to the y’
• Use co-ordination of grammatical form
– Adjacent utterance = local syntactic
consistency, not arising from the repetition of
Bock cont.
• Speakers alternately repeated sentences and
described pictures
– Syntactic form of picture description repeated
preceding sentence
• Syntactic priming/persistence: Single
speakers tend to repeat syntactic structurescan’t be explained non-syntactically,
Bock and Loebell
• Syntactic priming = activation
– Activation of procedure doesn’t disappear
immediately, later production of the form is
• Procedures associated with production and
comprehension are different
– Comprehension is word-by-word, production is selection
of a word appearing later in an utterance determines
selection of a previous word.
All of this leads to…
• The hypothesis: Syntactic priming arises
from residual activation of syntactic
information common to production and
The experiment
• One participant, one confederate
– Use confederate scripting in a dialogue game,
alternating between describing pictures and selecting
• Manipulate the confederate form, see if participant
produces co-ordinated target description
– It has been shown that there is greater magnitude when
the same verb was repeated between the prime and
target descriptions
• 24 Participants
• 2 sets of 48 cards that depict actions
– 12 cards are ditransitive actions involving an
agent, a patient and a beneficiary
– 36 cards are transitive actions involving an
agent and a patient-filler
• 2 cards per verb
• Depictions are easily recognizable/nameable
• Verb is printed under the picture
Method cont.
• There is a Subject’s Description Set, which
is the target set, and a Confederate’s
Description Set, which is the priming set
• Ordered pairs with one priming to one
• 2 pairings-same verb between the priming and
target, different verb between the priming and target
Method cont.
• 4 scripts, each containing a description of
the priming card
– Per script, half of the priming cards are
prepositional object descriptions. Other half
are double object descriptions.
• Experimental item: the confederate’s scripted
description of a prime card, plus the subject’s target
card paired with it
Method cont.
• So….
There are 4 versions of each item:
same verb, P.O. description
same verb, D.O. description
different verb, P.O. description
different verb, D.O. description
• Prime type: P.O. vs. D.O.
• Verb Identity: Same verb vs. different verb
• The Subject’s Description Set is in a box, in
random order (at least 2 fillers between each
target), and there is an empty selection box on a
table in front of the subject
– Subject also has a Selection Set of cards, which are the
Confederate’s Description Set with 24 additional
distracter cards-1 distracter per verb
• Confederate Setup is the same, but confederate also has scripts
specifying the description to use for each prime card
Procedure cont.
• Divider between the subject and the
confederate so that they can’t see each
other’s cards
– The experimenter tells them that they are
investigating how well people can
communicate when they can’t see each other
• Describe card and pick card that matches description
– Subject could ask for repetition, but nothing else
Procedure cont.
• Before experiment there was a practice
session with 4 cards
– The confederate always went first, so
confederate’s description of a prime card
always preceded the subjects description of the
target card
Procedure cont.
• Recorded on audiotape/transcribed
– Coded first response the subject produced
• 3 target responses with wrong verb were excluded
• 285 remaining response coded
– P.O. if patient of action immediately followed
the verb, and was followed by the preposition
‘to’ and the beneficiary
– D.O. if beneficiary immediately followed verb
and was followed by patient action
Results cont.
• Subjects had a tendency to produce target
descriptions in the same syntactic form as
the prime description
– The effect was stronger when the verb was the
same in both instances
• 55% when verb was the same
• 26% when verb was different
• Not associated with different discourse
• Use of one form over the other can’t be due
to rhetorical effects
– Prime and target cards had different entities,
repetition of the verb can’t account for
producing certain phrases
– Priming of ‘to’ can’t explain the magnitude of
the results
Discussion cont.
• Results show that speakers are sensitive to
the characteristics of the dialogue,
specifically, the linguistic behavior of the
other participant
• Syntactic co-ordination may be equal to the
syntactic priming effect
– Prior processing of a particular structure can
facilitate later use of that structure
Discussion cont.
• Results also show that there are shared
syntactic representations underlying
comprehension and production
– Encoded as a part of lexical entities that are
accessed during comprehension and production
• Goes against Bock and Loebell’s account of
syntactic priming
Discussion cont.
• This model
– There are nodes representing the base form of a
verb linked to nodes representing grammatical
features, which are linked to nodes representing
combinatorial possibilities
• Activation of a combinatorial node doesn’t decay
immediately, so later use is facilitated
– Stronger effects when the same verb appears in prime and
» Similar to Levelt et al.
Discussion cont.
• Syntactic co-ordination occurs when the
speaker and the listener activate shared
syntactic information
– Establish common syntactic ground, just like
establishing common semantic ground
• This can occur in natural dialogue
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