Addressees distinguish shared from private information when interpreting questions during interactive conversation

Sarah Brown-Schmidt, Christine Gunlogson, Michael K. Tanenhaus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Two experiments examined the role of common ground in the production and on-line interpretation of wh-questions such as What's above the cow with shoes? Experiment 1 examined unscripted conversation, and found that speakers consistently use wh-questions to inquire about information known only to the addressee. Addressees were sensitive to this tendency, and quickly directed attention toward private entities when interpreting these questions. A second experiment replicated the interpretation findings in a more constrained setting. These results add to previous evidence that the common ground influences initial language processes, and suggests that the strength and polarity of common ground effects may depend on contributions of sentence type as well as the interactivity of the situation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1122-1134
Number of pages13
JournalCognition
Volume107
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 2008
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Common ground
  • Comprehension
  • Conversation
  • Eye-tracking
  • Perspective taking
  • Question
  • Referential communication

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Cognitive Neuroscience

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