Ways of looking ahead: Hierarchical planning in language production

Eun Kyung Lee, Sarah Brown-Schmidt, Duane G. Watson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


It is generally assumed that language production proceeds incrementally, with chunks of linguistic structure planned ahead of speech. Extensive research has examined the scope of language production and suggests that the size of planned chunks varies across contexts (Ferreira & Swets, 2002; Wagner & Jescheniak, 2010). By contrast, relatively little is known about the structure of advance planning, specifically whether planning proceeds incrementally according to the surface structure of the utterance, or whether speakers plan according to the hierarchical relationships between utterance elements. In two experiments, we examine the structure and scope of lexical planning in language production using a picture description task. Analyses of speech onset times and word durations show that speakers engage in hierarchical planning such that structurally dependent lexical items are planned together and that hierarchical planning occurs for both direct and indirect dependencies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)544-562
Number of pages19
Issue number3
StatePublished - Dec 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Hierarchical planning
  • Language production
  • Planning scope

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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