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Title: Optimal design in language production
Author: Haywood, Sarah L.
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2005
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Psycholinguistic accounts of language production have traditionally been informed by evidence from highly constrained, non-interactive experimental tasks, such as picture description and sentence completion. These studies are informative about the mechanisms and representations that underlie production, but they tell us little about the impact of communicative context on those basic processes. This thesis examines language behaviour in more naturalistic situations, where the speaker is talking to a co-present addressee. This kind of setting more closely reflects production outside the laboratory, where speakers need to make themselves understood if communication is to be successful. In particular, the thesis investigates whether speakers follow a principle of ‘optimal design’ at the level of grammatical encoding. Optimal design can be interpreted in different ways; speakers may say things that are easy to produce, maximising efficiency for themselves. Alternatively, they might aim to produce messages that are easy for an audience to understand (or they might trade off between these goals). The thesis focuses on whether speakers take addresses’ perspectives into account when they formulate syntactic structure and word order. Referential communication paradigms were used to investigate language production during collaborative tasks. Speakers described picture cards or other objects so that an addressee could pick out the intended referent from an array. The structure of the array was manipulated such that particular syntactic structures or word orders would be easier for the addressee to interpret than others. The research suggests that grammatical stages of language production can be sensitive to information about an addressee’s perspective. Speakers show evidence of optimal design in their choice of syntax and word order, but only when it is obvious how they can make their utterances easy to understand.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available